In Laramie, WY in 1998, Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead because he was gay. This well-known hate crime spurred much dialogue and his mother's foundation, The Matthew Sheperd Foundation. The Matthew Sheperd Hate Crimes Act (HR1592) was passed in the House recently and will be heard in the Senate on ___ (S 1105). The bill allows federal aid to be used in prosecuting crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability in addition to the already included categories like race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Here's a clip from Rachel Maddow interviewing Judy Sheperd (Matthew's mother) about the act and the recent comments by misinformed Senator Virginia Foxx (R- NC).
She is not the only one with irrational explanations for why people should not be protected from hate crimes because of their sexual orientation. Others excuses stated by EDUCATED, U.S. HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES (all Republicans), includes that "this hate crimes legislation in some ways could be considered the very definition of tyrrany," according to Representative Michelle Bachman (R- MN).
The bill clearly states, "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." In other words, it does not limit free speech or diverse ideas.
Representative Steve King (R- Iowa) suggested that we cannot know why people commit crimes. The two young men that killed Sheperd actually admitted that they killed him because he was gay. One of the murderer's wives stated that her husband was blatantly homophobic. Another Representative stated that "this bill would limit religious freedom in our society... a scary thought." Well, yes, if your religion says to kill people because of who they are, this country will be limiting your freedomes. We would also limit the religious freedom of those whose god tells them to kidnap and rape people. Actually, the bill would also protect hate crimes against people because of their actual or perceived religious beliefs.
Louie Gohmert (R- TX) said, "this is the federal government, the big brother that Orwell talked about, coming in to the thoughts of every individual." Not exactly... but if you were thinking about killing someone, the goverment would probably like to know. Gohmert represents East Texas, district 1 and is currently in his third term. He lives in Tyler and served temporarily as Chief Justice under Rick Perry. He also went to Texas A & M.
Who votes for these fools? Apparently, we do.
No one from Texas in the Senate sponsored or co-sponsored the bill, but in 2007, several Texans in house did:
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Charles A. Gonzalez