News from AFFA:

Information from HRC on Federal Hate Crimes Bill / Matthew Shepard Act

Background on Senate Hate Crimes Action:

Today, Wednesday, July 11th, the Matthew Shepard Act was offered by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Smith (R-OR) as an amendment to the FY 08 Department of Defense Authorization bill (DoD). The vote could come as early as this week; however, there is a chance that it will slip until next week.

The Senate last voted on hate crimes legislation in 2004, when a Kennedy-Smith amendment to the FY 05 Department of Defense Authorization bill passed by a broad, bipartisan margin of 65-33.

If the amendment is approved, the hate crimes bill will become part of the DoD authorization bill. At this time, the amendment is expected to pass.

There will be a number of other amendments to the DoD authorization bill that may push consideration of the legislation into next week, when a vote on final passage will occur.

After consideration of all the amendments, and a vote on final passage, the bill will go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The House passed the DoD authorization in May.

Both the House and Senate will send conferees to the conference committee.

Since Democrats have control over Congress, they will pick the majority of conferees. This makes it unlikely that hate crimes will be stripped from the bill.

The conference report, with the hate crimes language, will then have to be approved by the House and Senate before heading to the president’s desk.

The DoD authorization bill is attracting many amendments dealing with Iraq. The final version of the bill could contain contentious language relating to the war. In the current political climate, a bill that contains such language may result in a veto by the President.

In the event of a veto, the President will outline what he disagrees with in the bill, then send it back to the Congress. The House and Senate will have to choose which provisions in the DoD bill are retained, and which will be stripped out.

Many obstacles remain before this vital legislation becomes law. The DoD authorization bill is currently the most favorable vehicle we have to move this legislation toward the finish line.

Zealots are calling on Sen. DeMint and Sen. Graham to vote NO on the Matthew Shepard Act.

Last chance to call your Senators if you want to voice your support of the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 1105).

Sen. DeMint, call (202) 224-6121

Sen. Graham, call (202) 224-5972

For each office, tell the staffer who answers:

As a constituent, I hope the Senator will vote YES on the Matthew Shepard Act (S. 1105).

I hope the Senator understands that this bill does NOT threaten free speech or weaken the Constitution.

This bill would only apply to violent attacks based on the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.

It would also provide funding to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute violent hate crimes.

This legislation has been endorsed by over 230 civic, religious, and law enforcement organizations.

I hope the Senator will do the right thing and vote YES on S. 1105 when it comes to a vote.