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Hate Crimes Round #3 — House Passage!

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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April 30, 2009

Well, what an afternoon of debate it was on the House floor yesterday. After sitting through literally hours of debate during the House Judiciary Committee consideration of the legislation last week, I thought I had heard it all. Little did I know that I would have the good fortune to see a certain Republican representative get on the floor and actually have a fairly lengthy rant about…wait for it…wait for it…celebratory gossip blogger Perez Hilton and a certain beauty queen from the Golden State. Really? This is seriously the best you can come up with?

Anyway, after wading through such foolishness and a very witty, funny closing argument by gay Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, the House did indeed pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The final tally had a whopping 249 representatives voting “Yes”!

What’s even more impressive, the legislation advances civil rights, while upholding critical free speech and association protections. And that is something that the truest of the true civil libertarians could happily look upon. Protecting civil rights and the First Amendment need not be a zero-sum game; in fact, the two really are complements of one another.

This is a view that the ACLU shares with some friends in high places. Just yesterday, President Obama stated:

I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance — legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.

The battle now moves over to the Senate. If they are smart, they’ll recognize that we can protect both civil rights and the free speech.

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