Republicans were firm and feisty in their attempts to amend the “hate crimes” prevention bill in committee markup. Votes were almost entirely along party lines. Some of the proposed amendments sparked interesting debate and shocking statements from the left which are worth pointing out here.
In the opening statements of the hearing, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) made the statement that the purpose of this bill was to expand equal protection to groups of people who have historically been victimized by hate and who are more vulnerable.
Republicans offered amendments that would have protected other vulnerable groups of people which have been victims of “hate crime.” The failure of these amendments shows the bad faith of the Democrats.
· Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) introduced an amendment to extend the provisions of hate crimes to senior citizens. He asked, “Are crimes against senior citizens less deserving of prosecution than crimes against transgenders and homosexuals?” The Democrats responded with a unanimous vote against his amendment. In fact, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) said that seniors are already very popular and do not need the protection of federal law enforcement. “This bill is about bias, not vulnerability. Seniors are just attacked because they are vulnerable, not because there is a bias against them.” This exposes the accuracy of Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) point that this bill is about the thoughts of the perpetrator, not actual conduct.
· Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), a former soldier, introduced an amendment that would add members of the armed forces to the protected class of citizens. Although the unanimous vote of the Democrats against this amendment was disappointing, it was nothing compared to the spewing of hateful sentiments from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida). She screamed across the room at Rep. Rooney because she was enraged that he would dare try to water down this bill by including non-victimized classes of people: “It is belittling to real and true victims of crime to include service members who are not victims of crime and have not historically been persecuted. Let’s not be distracted from real crimes and real victims.” She went on to explain how transgender and homosexual people are overwhelmingly targeted by “hate crimes.” Fortunately, Rep. Goodlatte was able to respond by saying, “Anyone who argues that members of the armed forces have not been attacked clearly does not know the history of our country.” He went on to point out the crimes against Vietnam vets and the hatred spewed against them. Rep. Scott dismissed the hatred experienced by Vietnam vets because “it happened over 30 years ago.” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) responded, “If you’re going to make the point that it is not relevant because it happened 30 years ago, well, slavery ended 140 years ago.”
· Rep. Goodlatte proposed adding pregnant women to the special protections offered by the bill. He pointed out that 2.4-6.4 percent (depending on the state) of pregnant women have been violently attacked. When Rep. Scott criticized his amendment, Rep. Goodlatte also pointed out, “Pregnant women have been far more targeted by perpetrators than any class the proposed hate crimes bill covers.” When it comes to protecting women, apparently Democrats prefer to protect only their right to abortion, not violence against them if they carry their baby to term. … Every Democrat voted against the amendment.
· Rep King’s last amendment was interesting because it highlighted the problem with only protecting only specific groups of people based on their sexual desires. His amendment would add anyone with an immutable characteristic to the list of protected classes of victims under “hate crimes.” He asked, “Why is one immutable characteristic more important than another?” Why are we valuing sexuality as more important than veteran status or old age, for instance? Rep. Trent Franks added, “why don’t we stop dividing ourselves into groups and start protecting everyone equally. We’re all God’s children and deserving of protection under the law.”
Rep. Baldwin, in the midst of the debate over veterans, made the point that the federal government needs to offer extra protection to groups who are being overly victimized. She explained that it is necessary, just like it was necessary in 1968 to pass the original “hate crimes” bill because there were horrible, horrible incidents of violence taking place against black people, particularly in the South. Prior to the Civil Rights Acts, an average of 62 black people were lynched per year — they actually died. Over a period of five years, 2003-2007, 12 people were killed as a result of actual or perceived bias against homosexuality. It is incredibly demeaning and offensive to compare the plight of transgender people and homosexuals to the plight of African-Americans who were enslaved by law and were true victims of heinous crimes.
This bill aims to punish the thoughts of perpetrators, not their actions.
· Rep. King introduced multiple amendments, one of which was to change the name of the bill to the “Thought Crimes” bill. This was more of a messaging amendment than substantive. Supporters of this bill continually stated that this is about bias and what is in the mind of the perpetrator. Rep. King wanted to clarify that this is punishing thoughts, not conduct. Any murder or attack is hateful. However, if the perpetrator is hateful toward the victim because they are a transgender, they will be prosecuted and punished to a greater extent. It’s basically punishing two identical crimes differently because of what is perceived to be in the perpetrator’s mind.
· Another concern that Rep. King raised throughout the markup process was the definitions of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” He asked Rep. Baldwin to define these terms, because laws should be clear and narrowly tailored. If “gender identity” is defined as how a person thinks of himself, “a perpetrator is being punished for something that is perceived to be in his head based on something that is perceived to be in the victim’s head.” In addition to these concerns, there are dozens of types of “sexual orientation” that could be covered under this ill-defined term such as bestiality, pedophilia and incest to name a few (larger list here). How do we know these are not covered by the bill if the terms are not defined?
· Another main concern with hate crimes legislation in general is that it will lead to the criminalization of speech. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) introduced multiple amendments aimed at protecting free and religious speech, all of which were defeated. When each one was opposed, Rep. Gohmert stated, “If this bill is just about punishing conduct, like you claim, I don’t understand why there is such resistance to an amendment that only addresses speech.”
· Rep. Gohmert also made the point that as a judge, he supported the death penalty for convicted murderers and would absolutely apply that judgment to anyone convicted of murdering an individual on the basis of their sexuality. He asked Rep. Baldwin if she would be willing to do the same. Every Democrat voted against his amendment to “put teeth into the bill” by adding the death penalty as a punishment for anyone who murders one of the protected classes of people.
All of these amendments and statements went to prove that the entire bill is not about punishing crime; it is about targeting and punishing speech and thoughts.