WASHINGTONThe Human Rights Campaign has learned today that the GOP leadership has stripped hate crime legislation from the Department of Defense authorization conference report. HRC today condemned the leadership, making it clear that the move was unconscionable. While hate crime legislation still has a chance of passing in this Congress, the GOP leaderships actions show they are determined to kill the legislation even if it means Republican colleagues will be hurt on Election Day.
The morally reprehensible actions by the GOP leadership sends the wrong message to the country and will have ramifications for fair-minded Republicans who supported bipartisan hate crime legislation, said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. The recent murder in Roanoke illustrates once again the need for our leaders to seriously tackle the problem of hate violence. But we have a GOP leadership that has instead turned their backs on hate crime victims and their families and acted against the wishes of the House, the Senate and an overwhelming majority of the American people. This is not only bad policy, it is bad politics, and their irresponsible actions may cost the party in November.
In June, the Senate voted 57 to 42including 13 Republicansto pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. On Sept. 13, by a vote of 232-192including 41 Republicansthe House passed a motion to instruct conferees to keep the hate crimes measure in the DoD bill. Despite bipartisan passage in the House and Senate, the GOP leadership stripped out hate crime legislation while the bill was in conference. It appears now that the only way hate crime legislation can become law is if it is made part of the final budget negotiations between the House, Senate and the White House.
On Sept. 22, Ronald Edward Gay walked into the Backstreet Cafe, a Roanoke, Va. gay bar, and opened fire on patrons killing one person and wounding six others. This attack highlights the continued problem of antigay hate crimes in America, which have grown increasingly violent in recent years. According to the Washington Post, Gay told police that he shot seven people in a gay bar because of anger at jokes people made about his last name. Gay has been charged with first-degree murder.
Last month, HRC launched a $75,000 HRC radio, television and print ad campaign that ran for 4 days and held several members of Congress accountable for their opposition to hate crime legislation.
Those targeted in the ads were the following House and Senate members: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; John Ashcroft, R-Mo.; Rep. James Rogan, R-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.; and Sens. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; Rod Grams, R-Minn.; Spencer Abraham, R-Mich; Sen. John Warner, R-Va. and Slade Gorton, R-Wash.
A new poll released last month by the Garin-Hart-Yang-Research Group shows that hate crime legislation is widely supported by the public.
According to the poll, nearly 66 percent of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who voted against legislation to strengthen the prosecution of violent hate crimes motivated by prejudice against race, religion, gender or sexual orientation of the victim. 63 percent of Independent voters say they are less likely to vote for a candidate opposed to hate crime legislation.
A coalition of organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith, and the American Association of University Women are leading efforts to pass hate crime legislation.