According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, 68 percent of all Americans believe that federal hate crime laws should protect people from discrimination or violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. The American public’s approval of widening hate crime laws comes in the face of President Bush’s threat to veto the House’s Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which has already passed, and the Senate version of the bill, the Matthew Shepard Act. The strengthened legislation would enable federal authorities to investigate hate crimes if local investigators lack the resources or are unwilling to pursue the cases. The bill passed the House 237-180 and the Senate will vote soon on the Shepard Act, named after a young man who was murdered in 1998 for being gay.
Support for the new hate crime legislation is strong across the political parties. Seventy-five percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Independents, and 60 percent of Republicans agree that hate crime laws should include sexual orientation and gender identity. “I hope President Bush will look at this poll and realize how unbelievably out-of-line a threatened veto of this critical crime-fighting piece of legislation is with a majority of Americans. President Bush’s threatened veto isn’t even supported by his base,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that advocates equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgener community.