- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Senate’s version of the defense authorization, which is expected to pass later today, is yet another reflection of the contempt many Democrats have for the military. Antiwar lawmakers led by like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Edward Kennedy have jeopardized passage of the bill, which provides critically needed funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, by attaching a poison pill: legislation granting homosexuals additional protection under federal “hate crimes” laws.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 60 to 39 to end a filibuster against an amendment by Mr. Kennedy to give the Justice Department the responsibility for investigating crimes believed to have been motivated by sexual orientation that it has for racially or religiously motivated crimes. Forty-nine Democrats, two independents and nine Republicans provided the 60 votes (the minimum required) to end the filibuster. Mr. Kennedy, who observed that no president had ever vetoed a defense authorization bill, said the hate-crimes measure belonged on the bill dealing with terrorism overseas because hate crimes are a domestic form of terrorism.

The senator appears to think that the American people are idiots — unable to distinguish between jihadists, often with the support of foreign governments, who plant IEDs and blow up mosques, railway stations and hotels on the one hand, and ordinary street hoodlums in this country whose apprehension and prosecution has traditionally been the responsibility of state and local government authorities on the other hand. Fortunately, Mr. Bush understands the difference and he has threatened to veto the Kennedy measure as a stand-alone bill. He should do the same with the defense authorization if a conference committee fails to take it out.

The Kennedy amendment attaches to the defense authorization a measure named the Matthew Shepard Act after a homosexual University of Wyoming student who was beaten to death in 1998. It would make it easier for victims to prove that a crime was motivated by bias and would add to the law crimes targeting someone due to sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. But neither Mr. Kennedy nor his allies have demonstrated that there is some epidemic of anti-homosexual violence that state and local authorities can’t or won’t prosecute. We have serious doubts about the very idea of “hate crimes” laws, which prosecute people for their thoughts rather than their criminal behavior. Nevertheless, today, 46 states have such laws. In Mr. Shepard’s own case, it should be pointed out, his killers are serving life sentences in prison for felony murder. Nor is it even clear that Mr. Shepard was killed because of his homosexuality. When ABC Television’s “20/20” investigated his slaying, they interviewed prosecutors, police and the girlfriend of one of the killers: most of the people interviewed said that the motive for the murder was robbery, and expressed doubt that Mr. Shepard was targeted because of his sexual preference.

But in the surreal world of Congress, none of that really matters. Senate Democrats found what they thought was the perfect legislative vehicle to undercut the war effort and curry favor with powerful homosexual-rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, and they have done so — putting at risk a bill that includes military pay raises and funds for wounded veterans. But Mr. Kennedy’s irresponsible amendment would not have survived the filibuster if it weren’t for votes of the following nine Republican senators: Norm Coleman (Minnesota); Susan Collins, (Maine); Judd Gregg (New Hampshire); Dick Lugar (Indiana); Gordon Smith (Oregon); Olympia Snowe (Maine); Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania); George Voinovich (Ohio); and John Warner (Virginia).

During the current Congress, many lawmakers have tried to argue that, even though they oppose the war, they still “support the troops.” If they really mean it, they should remove the Matthew Shepard Act from the defense bill. If they don’t mean it, the president should veto the bill.

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