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White House promises hate crimes bill veto

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush will veto legislation to expand hate crimes protections to homosexuals and transgendered individuals, even if he has to reject a defense authorization bill, the White House says.

“The qualifications [in the bill] are so broad that virtually any crime involving a homosexual individual has potential to have hate crimes elements,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, The Washington Times reported Aug. 7. “The proposals they’re talking about are not sufficiently narrow.”

The veto promise followed a May policy statement from the White House that said senior advisors in the administration would recommend Bush veto such a bill if it reaches his desk.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., has filed a hate crimes measure he is sponsoring as a possible amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill. The Senate will not consider the hate crimes legislation or the defense measure until it returns Labor Day week from a month-long recess.

It appears the Senate would comfortably pass the hate crimes measure. Supporters of the hate crimes language reportedly have hoped its attachment to the defense bill will make it more difficult for Bush to veto the overall legislation.

The House of Representatives approved a hate crimes bill in early May with a 237-180 vote. The House and Senate both have passed versions in past sessions, but they have yet to agree on a measure to send to the White House.

Current hate crimes law protects traits such as race, religion and national origin, but the bill’s opponents say the new legislation would grant protection based on lifestyle. They also warn it would move federal law toward punishing thoughts and beliefs, since the motivation of a person charged with a hate crime would have to be evaluated. In addition, some critics warn it could lead to suppression of speech that describes homosexual behavior as sinful and that it could be another stepping stone toward “gay marriage” legalization.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is one of numerous pro-family organizations that oppose such hate crimes measures.

Supporters of the bill contend it would only cover violent criminal conduct.

The House-approved bill would authorize the U.S. attorney general to provide assistance to state and local officials in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, as well as expand the categories covered by the law to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” among others. The legislation says a hate crime is one “motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.”

“Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality. “Gender identity” is a “person’s innate sense of gender,” which may be different than his sex, according to the website of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest homosexual activist organization. Transgender is an umbrella term for “people who live all or substantial portions of their lives expressing an innate sense of gender other than their birth sex,” according to HRC. The transgender category includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.

The House-passed bill is H.R. 1592, while the Senate version is S. 1105.
Compiled by Tom Strode

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