Hate Crimes Bill, Prop 8 Update

A brief roundup this morning of some news of interest to gay-rights activists:

Recently I sent an email to my legislators through the MassEquality website, asking them to sign on to the hate-crimes bill that’s pending in Congress. Back when I was a young libertarian, I had my doubts about hate-crimes legislation. As I saw it, violence and bullying were uniformly bad, whether motivated by bias against one’s group affiliation or by plain old personal cruelty. Why did we need to single out some forms of victimization as more worthy of attention than others?

As I now see it, one reason we need the federal government to pay special attention to hate crimes is that the attitudes motivating the bullies may be shared by local law enforcement and juries. This was certainly the case during African-Americans’ fight for civil rights in the mid-20th century.

The office of Senator Ted Kennedy (D, Mass.) sent me back a form email expressing his support for the hate-crimes bill, which I’m reprinting below because it does such a good job of explaining the difference that this legislation would make:

Thank you for your recent letter about the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. I understand your concerns and appreciate this opportunity to respond.

The United States is a nation founded on the ideals of tolerance and justice for all. We cannot accept violence motivated by bias and hate. According to the FBI, over 9,000 Americans a year are victims of hate crimes, and that number does not include the many hate crimes that go unreported. These crimes have a reach and impact far greater than the individual victim. They target whole communities, attacking the fundamental ideals our nation was founded on.

No member of society deserves to be a victim of a violent crime because of their race, religion, ethnic background, disability, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. It is long past time for Congress to do more to prevent hate crimes and insist that they be fully prosecuted when they occur. That’s why I’m proud to join Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon in sponsoring the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act.

This important legislation will strengthen the ability of federal, state, and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. It will authorize the Justice Department to assist in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, when requested by local authorities. The bill will also provide grants to assist localities in meeting the extraordinary expenses involved in hate crimes cases, and in training law enforcement to combat prevent such crimes. Cities and states will be given the assistance and resources they need to protect all members of society.

The House of Representatives has already passed this needed legislation. It now moves to the Senate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to approve it soon.

In other news, the California Supreme Court today will be hearing oral arguments in the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8. Ken Starr, whom you may remember for his fascination with Bill Clinton’s ding-dong, is the lead counsel for the Yes on 8 folks. He will be arguing not only that the ban on gay marriage should stand, but that the court should invalidate the 18,000 same-sex marriages that were performed before the ballot referendum passed.

Starr’s brief in the case repeats all the old lies about how nontraditional families are harmful to children. You know what was harmful to our nontraditional family, Ken? Sexism, secrecy, job discrimination, and religious condemnation.

Sign the Human Rights Campaign’s petition telling anti-GLBT extremists to “End the Lies” here. Their wall of shame shows quotes from other prominent figures in politics, religion and the media who are spreading dangerous misinformation about sexual minorities. There’s also a link to suggest your own favorite offenders. I nominate Brian Camenker of MassResistance, who was kind enough to link to my video of the November 2008 Join the Impact rally. Thanks for the hits, Brian.