The Senate passed groundbreaking legislation Thursday that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Obama has said the country must make significant changes to ensure equal rights.
The expanded federal hate crimes law now goes to President Obama’s desk. Obama has pledged to sign the measure, which was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill.
President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure.
The bill is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.
Thursday’s Senate vote approving the measure was 68–29.
Naturally, Black Tsunami is cock-a-hoop, although says more work needs to be done in other areas – and he also has a go at the more barmy and dangerous members of the Deluded Herd, when he says:
The religious right’s main lying claim about lgbt-inclusive hate crimes legislation is that it will lead to attacks on the free speech of those who think that homosexuality is a sin.
They say that pastors will be arrested in the pulpits for simply saying that homosexuality is a sin.
Well as soon as President Obama signs the Matthew Shepard Act, I will be creating an online clock that will count up how long it should take from Obama signing this bill to the arrest of a pastor for simply saying that homosexuality is a sin.
Of course no pastor will be arrested for simply calling homosexuality a sin. And that is the point of the online clock.
The religious right likes to spin a fear story. I say we hold them to it.
We get that sort of thing among Christian lunatics over here in the UK. They think it will be impossible to discuss homosexuality for fear of falling foul of the law. No, it won’t.
We, too, believe in free speech. If any preacherman is arrested for merely criticising homosexuality, I’ll be among the first to criticise that. If he incites violence or libels or slanders someone, that’s a different matter.
This is why I believe that Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, should have got what he did get: a chair at the table on BBC1’s Question Time last night.
I detest him and the racism and homophobia that he stands for. But let him have his moment in the debate, because, once we start denying odious, loathsome individuals like him the right to free speech, how long will it be before you and I are allowed the right to free speech?
And, as we’ve said before, those who have better arguments will soon shoot the likes of Griffin down in flames. Those (such as Peter Hain, MP and Welsh Secretary) who would deny him a seat at that table are obviously not sure of their own arguments, or whether they’ll be able to muster them effectively.
Related link: Ten years on, but more to be done, says Matthew’s mom