Iowa Senate passes law granting hate crime protections based on gender ‘expression’
Updated with a comment by Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg.
DES MOINES, Iowa, March 10, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A divisive party line vote of 27-21 in the Iowa Senate added gender self-identity or "expression" to an anti-discrimination hate crimes list.
The legislation punishes the offender with financial penalties for "injunctive relief, general and special damages, reasonable attorneys fees, and costs."
The bill also criminalizes any offense against someone because of his or her association with a transgender or transsexual individual.
"When states like Iowa attempt to add gender identity and gender expression to its Hate Crime statutes, it only demonstrates that lunacy prevails in the secular progressive movement," Ed Vitagliano, Executive Vice President of the American Family Association (AFA), told LifeSiteNews in an email. "The sexual anarchists among us insist that there is no difference between male and female, and they also insist we agree with them – or else."
All 26 Democrats voted for the bill, with Republican Sen. Charles Schneider (West Des Moines) joining the Democrats in voting "yes."
The bill has yet to be voted on in the Republican-controlled House, where it may not have time to be considered before a key legislative deadline Friday.
"Christians should certainly be compassionate towards those who are confused or otherwise struggling over their sexual or gender identity. But other people have rights too," Vitagliano commented. "For example, many parents and many students prefer that someone born male not be allowed to undress around girls. That isn’t hate."
Republican Sen. Mark Chelgren unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill so it prohibited a hate crime against anyone, saying all Iowans should be treated equally. "We should not be picking who is hated and who is not hated," Chelgren stated.
GOP Sen. Jake Chapman unsuccessfully attempted to add “unborn persons” to the list of the protected. Openly homosexual Sen. Matt McCoy stopped Chapman's amendment, convincing Senate president Pam Jochum that it wasn't relevant to the bill.
"I am saddened that this body has failed in its most basic responsibility:…a right to life," Chapman said, according to the Des Moines Register.
"It is a travesty for anyone to be violently victimized, regardless of the motivation for the crime," Vitagliano explained. "But hate crime laws are generally superfluous. There are stiff penalties for violent crime in every state in the U.S."
"Presumably, it is also insulting to victims of violence who don’t fall into these preferred categories," the AFA leader noted. "Is it worse for a transgendered individual to be beaten in a dark alley than for a person who is not sexually confused?"
"These Hate Crime laws are commonly a solution looking for a problem," the pro-marriage and pro-family leader charged. "While there are individual cases of transgendered or homosexual people being targeted, they represent a tiny sliver of a fraction of violent crime overall."
The liberal clergy group Interfaith Alliance of Iowa released a statement supporting the legislation.
To date, more than 15 states have included gender self-identity in their hate crime laws.
"There is no proof that hate crime laws serve to deter the violent individuals who prey on society," Vitagliano concluded.
Peter Sprigg, the Family Research Council's Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, told LifeSiteNews that attacks on trangender people "should not be tolerated, and people who commit such attacks should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
"However, we believe that such prosecution should take place under existing laws which provide equal protection from such attacks to all citizens, rather than a special law which protects some people more than others," he continued. "In addition, although 'hate crime' laws generally address only acts of violence, making 'gender identity' a special protected category in such laws would tend to stigmatize any disapproval of transgender conduct, no matter how peaceful, as a form of 'hate.' We are hopeful that that Iowa House will recognize these problems with the bill and reject it."