By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 28, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - President Barack Obama has now signed into law a controversial "hate crimes" bill that authorizes the federal government to intervene in violent crimes that appear motivated by hatred of homosexuals and apply stiffer penalties and sentences.
President Barack Obama signed the measure into law at 2:30 pm today. A reception is planned for 5 pm., and President Obama is expected to deliver some brief remarks on the bill at around 6:05 pm.
The expanded hate crime legislation extends special protection to victims of crime who are targeted by perpetrators based on an actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law as part of a provision added to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill.
Opponents of the hate crimes legislation have charged that the bill violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution by making an individual's thought regarding certain groups as much a factor as the nature of his act in prosecuting a crime.
The US Commissioners on Civil Rights wrote letters to US House and Senate leaders condemning the legislation, saying they "regard the broad federalization of crime as a menace to civil liberties." The commissioners also pointed out that the law creates a legal loophole to the Constitution's prohibitions to double jeopardy, because it allows the federal government to try an individual who has already been acquitted in a state trial, for the same crime.
The bill has also been labeled the "pedophile protection act," in large part due to the refusal of House members to approve an amendment specifying that the bill would not penalize the free speech of those objecting to homosexual perversions such as pedophilia. The term "sexual orientation" is not defined in the bill, an oversight that some legislators charged could lead to an overly broad interpretation - since the term is used by psychologists to encompass a variety of sexual deviancies (including pedophilia), and not just homosexuality.
Christian leaders have expressed particular concern that attempts to secure the right to speak against the homosexual lifestyle and its normalization failed. Among many rejected proposals for similar hate crimes legislation introduced in the House this year was one offered by Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, which would have included a clause ensuring that ministers could not be prosecuted for abetting a "hate crime" simply because they preached the Christian perspective on homosexuality.
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ABC 20/20 Report Says Matthew Shepard Killed During Robbery Not Anti-Gay Hate Crime