WASHINGTON (CNN) — The White House has threatened to veto a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday that expands hate-crime laws to include attacks based on sexual orientation or gender.
Under current law, hate crimes are subject to federal prosecution only if the acts of violence are motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Federal prosecutors get involved only if the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or participating in interstate commerce.
The White House says there is no need for the expanded bill because state and local laws already cover the crimes it addresses, and there is no need for federal enforcement.
In addition to allowing greater leeway for federal law enforcement authorities to investigate hate crimes, the House bill — which was passed on a 237-180 vote –provides $10 million over the next two years to aid local prosecutions.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, but no date has been set for a vote.
Addressing freedom of speech
Critics of the bill say it would have a chilling effect on clergy who preach against homosexual behavior.
“We believe that this legislation will criminalize our freedom of speech and our ability to preach the gospel,” said Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Maryland.
Supporters disagree. The bill, they say, applies only to violent crime and, in fact, specifically addresses freedom-of-speech issues.
“Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution,” the bill says.
And then of course in the same day we have Republican Presidential candidate Tommy Thompson answering this question in last night’s debate…
Q: Is it ok for an employer to fire someone because they are gay?
A: Ultimitely it should be up to the employer.
Q: But is it okay?
For those Republicans who would align themselves with this statement I have a question for you…
Insert the any of the following words in place of “gay” and answer the question.
Black, female, muslim, French, Asian, Jewish, Arab, Mexican, Republican, Democrat.