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Lawmakers fight off changes to 'hate crimes' bill

Supporters of the “hate crimes” bill spent the day fighting an “onslaught of hostile amendments” and were not able to reach a final vote after five hours of discussions today, a Washington, D.C., gay and lesbian news source reports.

According to the Washington Blade, the hearing began at 10:30 a.m. and is set to reconvene tomorrow morning, when lawmakers are scheduled to vote on H.R. 1913, or the Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that some say might allow federal officials to prosecute Christians who speak out against homosexual behavior.

It has 42 co-sponsors and was introduced into the House on April 2 by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

In a speech, Conyers said, “The bill only applies to bias-motivated violent crimes and does not impinge public speech or writing in any way.”

Section 10 of the act states, “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

However, critics cite United States Code Title 18, Section 2, as evidence of how the legislation could be used against people who merely speak out against homosexuality. It states:

Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

They argue that under this reasoning, a Christian pastor or other teacher could be tried for openly speaking out against homosexuality if someone misconstrues their message as encouragement to commit a violent crime against another person – even if the Christian leader never advocated the offense.

There was lengthy debate about several amendments to the act today.

Republican lawmakers sought to include unborn children, military members and pregnant women in the measure, according to the report. Others tries to strip “gender identity” language from the bill.

The amendments were rejected.

Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs at Liberty Counsel, has spoken out repeatedly in opposition to the act.

“The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law,” he said. “Hate crimes legislation is … [a] violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in that it elevates one class of citizen based upon their chosen sexual behaviors above other people.”

Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, warned Christians to speak up before the legislation passes. He said they are acting like the proverbial frog in a slowly heating kettle that boils to death.

“They need to wake up and take action to oppose this threat to religious liberty.”

The following is a list of seven Republican co-sponsors of H.R.1913 alphabetized by state:

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif.
Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill.
Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
Rep. Anh Cao, R-La.
Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.

The following is a list of 35 Democrat co-sponsors of the bill alphabetized by state:

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif.
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif.
Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif.
Rep. Lynn Woolseym D-Calif.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa
Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.
Rep. John Olver, D-Mass.
Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
Rep. William Clay, D-Mo.
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y.
Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
Rep. Raymond Green, D-Texas
Rep. James Moran, D-Va.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

Concerned individuals may contact representatives by calling (202) 224-3121 or by searching for their last names in the U.S. House of Representatives database.