WASHINGTON, D.C. President Barack Obama has signed federal legislation that widely expands hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians. The law, which he signed in an afternoon ceremony Oct. 28 in the White House's East Room, was tacked on to a $680 billion defense bill for 2010.
"After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are," Obama said during the signing ceremony.
In a tactical move, congressional Democrats attached the hate-crimes legislation to the defense bill, which forced Republicans to accept the homosexual protections or deny funding for defense.
The law makes it a federal crime to assault a person because of his sexual orientation or gender identification. Conservatives fought the measure saying it has the potential of silencing critics of the homosexual lifestyle.
Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters, told OneNews Now that he dismisses the administration's claims that the bill contains protections for religious speech, beliefs or association. He added that similar laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith.
"Under the criminal law of incitement, if something is said in a broadcast that another person uses as a motivation to go out and commit an act of what they call 'bodily injury' in the statute, then a broadcaster could be held criminally liable," Parshall said.
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, called the new law "another nail in the coffin for the First Amendment."
"These types of crimes are already punishable under existing federal, state, and local laws," Stanley said. "Violent crimes should be punished regardless of the characteristics of the victim. Bills of this sort are designed to forward a political agenda and silence critics, not combat actual crime.
"The bottom line is that we do not need a law that creates second-class victims in America and that gives the government the opportunity to ignore the First Amendment."
He vowed to use the resources of his organization to defend those whose religious "rights are violated by this unconstitutional law and to ultimately overturn this attack on freedom."
Hate crime or drugs?
During his speech, Obama spent the bulk of his time lauding the changes in the defense-spending bill, saving discussion for the hate-crimes legislation for a few sentences at the end of the ceremony. He said he would be discussing the new hate-crimes law later in the day, although he did acknowledge Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was killed and tortured in 1998 by two men he met in a bar.
Gay-rights advocates quickly attributed the killing to a hate crime and Shepard has long been regarded as a martyr for the homosexual movement. But several years after the murder, an ABC News reportfeaturing interviews with the two convicted killers and the man who prosecuted themindicated the murder was driven my money and drugs.
The signing came just weeks after the president also vowed to push Congress to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy."
"I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event," Obama said.
The president also lauded the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a longtime advocate for hate-crime legislation.
The bill is also named for James Byrd Jr., a Texas man who was chained to a vehicle bumper and dragged to his death because of his race.
After the signing ceremony, Obama hosted a reception celebrating the bill's signing by congratulating "all the activists, all the organizers, all the people who helped make this day happen, thank you for your years of advocacy and activism, pushing and protesting that made this victory possible."
"At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people," the president said. "This is about whether we value one anotherwhether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus. It's hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead. It's hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who'd offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died."
But Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission said such legislation is often the basis of "governmental hate" against Christians."The fact the hate bill had to be passed in such an unscrupulous and cynical manner (attaching it to the Defense Authorization Act) reveals the depth of President Obama's commitment to a radical, anti- Christian agenda," Cass said. "He will stop at nothing to undermine the will of the majority of Americans to pay back militant homosexual activists who raised millions of dollars for his campaign and worked to get him elected."
addthis_pub="christianexaminer"; addthis_logo = ?http://www.christianexaminer.com/Images/CE logos/CElogo_222.jpg ?; addthis_header_color = "#33569b"; addthis_header_background = "#e4e4e5" addthis_brand = "ChristianExaminer"; addthis_options = ?email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, google, facebook, reddit, live, more'; addthis_language = "en";