President Clinton Includes Combating Discrimination Against Gay And Lesbian Americans As A Priority In State Of The Union Address

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton made history by becoming the first President to discuss gay and lesbian issues in a State of the Union address. Clinton's inclusive call to end discrimination and violence against gay and lesbian Americans should be applauded and could lend momentum to the passage of gay-supportive legislation in the 106th Congress, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"President Clinton's call to end violence and discrimination against gay Americans is a testament to his long standing commitment to civil rights and was an act of bold leadership," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "Establishing the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act as national priorities, reinvigorated momentum for both bills in the 106th Congress."

If passed by Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment.

Currently, race, religion, national origin, age, disability and gender are protected categories. In 1996, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act came within one vote of passing the Senate.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), if passed by Congress, would help protect gay and lesbian Americans from bias-motivated attacks. The HCPA would add sexual orientation, as well as gender and disability, to the already protected categories of religion, race, and national origin. The HCPA would allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to intervene in cases where local law enforcement was either unable or unwilling to solve a crime or protect the victims from further attacks. The HCPA would also expand the circumstances in which the FBI could involve itself in a case.

"We hope to work with Congress to see that this bipartisan legislation, which is popular with the public and backed by the president, can get passed this year," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

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