House Passes Sexual Orientation Update To Hate Crimes Bill

Let's start with the good news: the House of Representatives voted broaden the scope of existing laws to include sexual orientation as a federal hate crime. The bill passed 281 to 146. However, the comments from the opposition are revealing.

The House vote on the defense bill was 281 to 146. Unlike usual defense bill votes, most of those in opposition — 131 out of the 146 — were Republicans objecting strenuously to inclusion of what they referred to as "thought crimes" legislation in a defense bill.

"The inclusion of 'thought crimes' legislation in what is otherwise a bipartisan bill for troop funding is an absolute disgrace," said Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, head of the GOP conservative caucus.

And why were they so upset? They were just looking out for hate speech:

GOP opponents were not assuaged by late changes in the bill to strengthen protections for religious speech and association — critics had argued that pastors expressing beliefs about homosexuality could be prosecuted if their sermons were connected to later acts of violence against people who are gay.

Supporters countered that prosecution could occur only when bodily injury is involved, and no minister or protester could be targeted for expressing opposition to homosexuality.

Well, as long as that's settled...

This legislation comes at an interesting time. One of the Republicans protested:

"This is radical social policy that is being put on the defense authorization bill, on the backs of our soldiers, because they probably can't pass it on its own," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said.

Right...because soldiers couldn't possibly have an interest in protections that now include sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, and disability. I mean, obviously, every single red-blooded American solider is male, het, and proud! Well, unless you're a female soldier being dismissed due to Don't Ask Don't Tell:

All the services kicked out a disproportionate number of women under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The center studies gender and sexuality in the military. [...]

In addition, the Army removed more women under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at a greater rate than men when compared with the ratio of women to men in each service.

Of those discharged under the policy, 36 percent were women, although women make up only 14 percent of troops in the Army, the data showed.

But who cares about facts? To the Republicans, these are "thought crimes" not "losing my job to discriminatory practices" problems or "tie someone to a fence after pistol whipping and torturing them" crimes. So, it's perhaps a good thing that "The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later" is showing at 120 theaters around the globe on October 12th, to commemorate the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death from "thought crimes."

House Votes To Add Sexual Orientation To Law On Hate Crimes [Washington Post]
House Extends Hate Crime Law To Cover Gays [MSNBC]
More Women Than Men Dismissed From Military For Being Gay [CNN]
Guthrie To Present 'Laramie Project' Epilogue [MPR News]