“Look, ma, Nancy’s doing it again!”
As the New York Times editorial headline put it so well, she’s “Caving in on Hate Crimes.”
Congressional leaders, who have disappointed frequently this year, have done it again. This time, the House leadership has failed to find a way to get a bipartisan law against hate crimes passed and signed into law. Racial, religious, sexual and other minorities have waited long enough. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to do more than just express her support for the bill; she must find a way to make it the law.
The Matthew Shepard Act would expand the definition of hate crimes and make important improvements in the federal response. To categories already covered by federal law, which include race and religion, it would add crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability. It would also broaden the federal government’s authority to investigate these hateful acts.
The bill has been a top priority of civil rights groups since Mr. Shepard, who was gay, was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. It also has strong support from law enforcement, including the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National District Attorneys Association. The House passed it 237-180, with significant Republican support, and the Senate passed a similar bill by voice vote, after a 60-39 cloture vote.
Wow! Sixty votes in the Senate. Encouraging. Law and order types supporting it. Only vocal opposition has been from assorted preachers who want to rail against gays and lesbians any ol’ way they wanna and are spreading paranoid rumors that the bill would put gummint right in the pews. Oh, and W.
President Bush has suggested he would veto the bill. It’s an unfortunate threat, but one he is certainly capable of carrying out. House and Senate leaders planned to get around that threat by attaching it to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, which Mr. Bush would have had trouble vetoing. But House leaders decided last week that since some liberals did not want to vote for the defense bill and some conservatives did not want to vote for the hate crimes bill, they could not piece together a majority to get it through.
So, unlike defense bills, which Nancy Pelosi hands to the president like lollipops to stop his tantrums, this time the bill is derailed by the too too clever idea of burying it in the president’s latest war money lollipop.