Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hate Crimes Bill Going to Senate this week? CNN says so:

Senate set to vote on hate crimes bill
Posted: 11:01 AM ET

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The fight over gay rights is taking center stage once again as the U.S. Senate prepares to vote as early as Thursday on groundbreaking legislation expanding the scope of federal hate-crimes law.

The measure, added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill, would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. The House has already passed the measure. It will go to President Barack Obama's desk if, as expected, it clears the Senate.

President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure; Obama has promised to sign it.The bill is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.

Several religious groups have expressed concern that a hate-crimes law could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects such as abortion or homosexuality. Attorney General Eric Holder has asserted that any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, as opposed to the prosecution of speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs.

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