An activist group is accusing senators of discrimination for passing a “hate crimes” amendment on sexual orientation but refusing to consider a resolution supporting tolerance for ex-homosexuals.
The resolution promoted by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, or PFOX, says “Congress condemns hate against ex-gays and affirms its commitment to a society that respects all people, including former homosexuals.”
Last Tuesday, the Senate approved 65-33 an amendment sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy to expand federal hate-crime laws to include homosexuals. The legislation is part of the Defense Authorization Act, which Congress must pass this year. If the bill is approved as a whole, a conference committee will reconcile the Senate’s version with the House’s, which does not include the hate crimes amendment.
PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs says she can’t understand why Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia voted for the hate-crimes amendment but refused to co-sponsor a resolution calling for tolerance for “ex-gays.”
“Now who could be opposed to that?” asked Griggs, who says her group came to Capitol Hill last month for “Ex-Gay Lobby Days.”
Rev. Darryl Foster, an African-American former homosexual, asked Allen’s office to sign on to the resolution but was rebuffed.
“Allen’s office said that acknowledging ex- gays through the resolution would amount to ‘favoritism’ and the senator would not do that,” said Foster.
Griggs insisted it’s Allen who appears to be “playing favorites” by discriminating against former homosexuals.
“Sen. Allen voted for the Kennedy gay hate-crimes law which will cost taxpayers $5 million a year to implement, yet refuses to co-sponsor our resolution, which is merely a statement condemning hate against former homosexuals and costs nothing to implement,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
PFOX says for the past two years, Kennedy’s office has refused to make an appointment to meet with his former-homosexual constituents on Ex-Gay Lobby Days.
“Because of his closed door policy to ex-gays, Kennedy’s gay hate-crimes law will not protect former homosexuals,” said Griggs. “Sen. Kennedy’s intolerance and ignorance of ex-gay issues, and Sen. Allen’s refusal to consider supporting a resolution for ex-gays, is unfortunate in this age of civil rights.”
Kennedy’s hate-crimes proposal would be the first major expansion of the 1968 hate-crimes statue, which allows federal prosecution of crimes based on race, color, religion or national origin.
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said of the hate-crimes provision: “I cannot think of a more decent and Christian thing to do. … When people are being stoned in the public square, we ought to come to their rescue.”
But fellow Republican, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, contends Kennedy’s amendment is unnecessary.
“Crimes against another person are crimes of hate regardless of who the individual is,” he said. “This is a hateful thing to do.”
Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, argues the hate-crimes language violates equal protection under the law for all citizens.
“When you start dividing people into categories and devote more resources to some victims rather than others,” he said, “you’re violating equal protection.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., warned the bill could end up “criminalizing thought.”
But Smith sees the hate-crimes legislation, supported by 18 Republicans and every Democrat, as an important precursor to dealing with the proposed federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, which he supports.
“Before you get to marriage, get over hate,” he said.