Excerpted from Gay-Rights Activists Hopeful About Agenda’s New Prospects, by Johanna Neuman, published Dec 3, 2006, by Los Angeles Times:
Groups say they’re close to getting a hate crimes measure passed in the new Congress
…With Democrats about to take control of Congress, some of its other legislative goals appear within reach — including making violence against gays a hate crime and outlawing workplace discrimination.
…With the realignment of the House and Senate next month, gay and lesbian groups say they are tantalizingly close to having enough votes to ensure passage of at least the hate crimes bill, and perhaps the discrimination measure, which once failed in the Senate by one vote.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is [“gay”], said the hate crimes bill had a “very good chance of going to George Bush’s desk … in the first half of the year.”
He said the discrimination measure might be further off, noting that Democrats may not want to push for too much too soon.
…Some gay-rights activists now are demanding that the bill include transgender individuals, which could complicate passage.
And social conservatives contend that hate crimes bills in Sweden and Canada have squelched religious expression. “Pastors have been prosecuted for saying these things [about homosexuality] from the Bible, in their own churches,” said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative Concerned Women for America.
…Gay-rights activists say they expect the Democratic leadership to allow just one of their issues to get attention soon after the party takes control, for fear of alienating conservative Democrats. The hate crimes bill has the best chance of early passage, advocates say, because it has support of law enforcement groups.
…With a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, social conservatives will be looking to the White House for help. “We’ll likely be relying on the president to veto,” McClusky said.
Gay-rights activists acknowledge that President Bush could be a problem, given his base of religious conservatives, but are not convinced he would use his veto power.
“Given the broad, broad public support, I’d be very surprised if President Bush would actually veto” the hate crimes bill, said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a civil rights group.
…Gay-rights groups say they have already won an important victory: They can now play offense instead of defense.
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