By Kathleen Gilbert
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Senate Democrats announced on Monday that the Senate would consider a homosexual "hate crimes" proposal as an attached amendment to the annual defense authorization bill, and will likely vote on the bill tomorrow.
In addition to adding "sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability" to the list of federally-protected classes, S.909, also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also expands the reach of hate crimes law by eliminating the restriction that such crimes disrupt federally protected activities.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said Monday he would introduce S.909 as a bipartisan amendment to the defense authorization measure, thereby easing passage of the hotly debated bill.
Last year the Senate approved hate crimes legislation also as part of the military bill, but it was never reconciled with a similar House-passed bill, and met with opposition from the Bush White House. However, Obama expressed support for the legislation in April, urging the House to quickly pass its version.
Critics have warned that the bill is bound to chill religious free speech against homosexuality, saying that similar laws in other countries have facilitated the prosecution of Christians who criticize homosexuality, particularly in Canada and the U.K.
In addition the House version of the bill, titled the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act, was met with alarm by conservative lawmakers after the House Judiciary Committee refused an amendment proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to specifically exclude pedophiles from the protection.
As the committee had also refused to define or restrict the definition of the term "sexual orientation," one Democrat representative lauded the bill as granting heightened federal protection for all of the 547 "paraphilias" or sexual aberrations documented by the American Psychological Association.
In the House debate, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) urged passage of the bill with the understanding it would grant all known sexual fetishes heightened federal protection.
"This bill addresses our resolve to end violence based on prejudice and to guarantee that all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, or - (Hastings here lifted a several-page document) - all of these '-philias' and fetishes and '-isms' that were put forward, need not live in fear because of who they are."
The Senate received hundreds of thousands of letters from citizens protesting the bill in a campaign sponsored by WorldNetDaily last month.
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See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Federal Civil Rights Commission Warns Hate Crimes Bill Poses "Menace" to Civil Liberties
Hate Crimes Bill to be Smuggled through Senate as a Legislative Amendment
Focus on the Family's Dobson on Hate Crimes Bill: "Utter Evil" Coming out of Congress
Obama Urges House of Representatives to Pass Sexual Orientation "Hate Crimes" Bill
Free Speech Concerns Ignored as "Hate Crimes" Bill Passes Fed. Judiciary Committee