Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rainbow Viral, You & Me

Can you feel it? It's slowly emerging and we all are waiting with baited breathe. What is it you ask? The summer season of festivals, prides and the great American outdoor activities that we love. At this posting, it seems that the weather has finally decided to move ahead and allow us to start planning those steamy hot days of summer fun and frolic. But, before you start that get away search, I still have more news,updates, commentary, video and even some travel tips to boot. Keep it locked in and we continue to load these pages with more of what you've been looking for!

Hate Crime Legislation Debated

In a previous post, I mused about staying safe in the city, while avoiding being a target for possible hate crime. Keeping this important issues on the frontburner is necessary as across the country numerous incidents have been reported concering SGL indiviudals and businesses. The Mid-South has not been immuned to the impact of these incidents including unsloved murders. On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee will consider hate crimes legislation tomorrow has reignited a debate on Capitol Hill as to whether or not granting sexual orientation the same legal status as race and religion is a step toward equality or one in the wrong direction.The bill, known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would amend present hate crimes law to include violence motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability.The bill will be introduced by the committee chairman, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and is the same legislation that passed the House in 2007 by a 237-180 vote.If enacted, it would provide federal assistance to state and local law enforcement to prosecute hate crimes. It would also authorize the federal government to investigate crimes where the victim was targeted because he or she belongs to one of the protected groups.
The necessity of legislation to enhance criminal penalties for crimes committed against gays and lesbians based on whether or not they were motivated by hate is at the center of the debate. Gay-rights groups argue they are only asking for the same federal protections already enjoyed by people of faith, while conservative Christian organizations claim the legislation will infringe on their religious liberties.“Hate crime laws that include sexual orientation are a bad idea, because they elevate homosexuality to the same status as race and do nothing to prevent violent crimes,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrators but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy and those who support traditional moral values.”Many Christian activists are concerned the hate crimes bill would penalize speech — specifically speech from the pulpit condemning homosexual behavior. This has led many conservatives to conclude the bill is a backdoor attempt to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Christians who oppose gay rights.“The idea of being prosecuted for reading Scripture may seem delirious, but it is just as crazy to think it couldn’t happen,” said Catholic League President Bill Donohue. “The problem in general with hate crimes legislation is that it invites the government to probe way beyond motive. And in instances like this, it trespasses on free speech and religious liberty. This is a road no defender of liberty should ever want to go down.”Gay-rights advocates, however, say conservatives are using fear tactics to deny equal protections to a class of people that has historically been targeted by hate groups. They also argue Christian conservatives are being hypocritical because they publicly oppose hate crimes legislation, but presently benefit from a national hate crimes law that protects religion.A 1969 civil rights law “prohibits willful injury, intimidation, or interference or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person because of race, color, religion or national origin” because that person is engaged in activities that include, but are not limited to, admission to public schools, application for employment or receiving any government benefits.U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., dismisses claims the bill would be used to silence Christians and argues the bill respects the First Amendment while, at the same time, protecting gays and lesbians.“The law already increases penalties for crimes motivated by hatred in several categories, so the absence of protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is particularly egregious,” Mr. Frank said. “This bill remedies that gap in a responsible way, fully respectful of constitutional rights and I look forward to it being passed and signed by a president who is committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”The bill also contains language supporters say would prevent it from being construed to infringe upon First Amendment liberties. “Nothing in this act, or the amendments made by this act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution,” the bill reads.The 2007 bill ultimately failed, but with a supportive president in the White House and solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, supporters are optimistic the bill will become law.

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