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Hate Crimes Mark-Up...Round #1

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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April 22, 2009

After a good five hours of debate and nearly a dozen poison-pill amendments, the House Judiciary Committee has recessed until 10am tomorrow morning, at which time they will resume debate on H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The bill provides important new federal authority for investigating and prosecuting criminal civil rights violations, while also including strong protections for speech and association.

Despite the crocodile tears from opponents of the legislation, this isn’t about “thoughts” or “beliefs,” but rather violent acts of hatred. All anyone needs to do is actually read the legislation to find the speech and association protections, which would be the strongest against the misuse of a person’s free speech that Congress has enacted as part of the federal criminal code.

A little silver lining from today’s debate? The amendments, which are nothing more than attempts to undermine the entire bill, are being rejected, including one to strip gender identity protections. Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) gave an excellent defense for keeping those protections in place. Go Tammy!

Roll-your-eyes moment of the day? There have been many, but a personal favorite had to be Representative Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment to change the title of the bill to the “Thought Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.”

More tomorrow…

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