- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
Obama signs hate crimes bill into law
President Obama delivered a major victory to the gay rights movement Wednesday by signing into law a bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the class of minorities protected under federal hate crime laws.
The historic and controversial legislation was attached to a $680 billion defense authorization bill that was noteworthy for its elimination of some costly weapons systems and its expansion of the war in Afghanistan.
Speaking to an emotional audience of a few hundred gay rights activists in the White House East Room, hours after a separate ceremony for the defense authorization bill signing, Mr. Obama called the hate crimes portion of the legislation “the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade.”
The president said the bill would move the United States closer toward becoming “a nation in which we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the most prominent gay rights group in Washington, said the bill was “the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans.”
“[It] represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality,” Mr. Solmonese said. “This law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice.”
The law adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the classes of minorities already protected under federal hate crimes law. Minority classes already protected were race, religion, ethnicity and nationality.
Critics said that because the new law only adds harsher penalties for acts that are already illegal and subject to criminal prosecution, its main achievement is to move the nation toward the criminalization of politically incorrect speech.
“Bills of this sort are designed to forward a political agenda and silence critics, not combat actual crime,” said Erik Stanley, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group.
“All violent crimes are hate crimes, and all crime victims deserve equal justice. This law is a grave threat to the First Amendment because it provides special penalties based on what people think, feel or believe,” Mr. Stanley said.
Conservative Christian leaders are fearful of precedents in Europe and Canada, where church pastors have been jailed for short periods over statements of faith that homosexuality is sinful.
But the move gives the president some breathing room with gay rights supporters, a group that has grown frustrated that Mr. Obama has not moved more quickly to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, or to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Mr. Obama has paid tribute to the gay community, holding a gay pride reception at the White House in June, awarding a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to gay rights icon Harvey Milk, and delivering the keynote speech earlier this month to the HRC annual awards dinner.
But activists have said that while they appreciate gestures from the president, they want action.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine acknowledged this ongoing tension in a statement issued after the president’s signing of the legislation.
About the Author
- GOP sees little outreach in health care debate
- Obama nears decision on Afghan strategy
- Obama: 'No faith justifies' Fort Hood attack
- Obama: No religious faith justifies Fort Hood shootings
- Democrats torn on Afghanistan, women's rights
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
Team Obama's bizarre behavior helps Gitmo terrorists foil justice
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- Joe Biden's first Instagram pic mocked as shill for sunglass ad
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- Obama taunts GOP, takes nationally televised victory lap on Obamacare
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Brewer signs 1 of 4 pro-gun bills passed Wednesday
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- CBO shows it's Paul Ryan 4, Obama 0 on budget targeting
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.