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House Unexpectedly Passes Gay and Gender Hate Crimes Amendment

The House of Representatives last week voted 223-199 in favor of an amendment from Representative John Conyers (D-MI) that adds actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to federal hate crime laws. The amendment to the Children’s Safety Act provides grants to the states to help prosecute these crimes. The measure was endorsed by more than 175 law enforcement, civil rights, civic, and religious organizations, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, US Conference of Mayors, and Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

The Senate, which will now take up the legislation, had passed similar bills several times. House conservatives, however, had always blocked them, arguing that such cases should be dealt with on local or state levels without extra federal involvement.

“Gays and lesbians should not have to live in fear anywhere in the United States of America,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), one of three openly gay members of Congress and the only lesbian. “Today’s vote is significant both substantively and symbolically, reminding us, as Dr. Martin Luther King did, that, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice’.”

Sources:

Associated Press 9/15/05; Human Rights Campaign release 9/14/05; The Advocate 11/4/04; Reuters 9/14/05; Statement of Tammy Baldwin 9/14/05

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