In what is being characterized as an unexpected move, the U.S. House of Representatives today approved an amendment to a child-safety bill that adds “sexual orientation” to the federal “hate crimes” statute.

The amendment to the Children’s Safety Act – which, among other things, creates a national website for child sex offenders and stipulates that sex felons face up to 20 years in prison for failing to comply with registration requirements – was offered by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and passed 223-199. Thirty Republicans, 192 Democrats and one Independent voted to add the “sexual orientation” language, while 194 Republicans and five Democrats voted no.

According an Associated Press report, current “hate crimes” law includes stiffer penalties for federal offenses when the attacker is motivated by the actual or perceived race, religion or ethnic background. The Conyers provision adds to that list sexual orientation, gender and disability.

The House has been the chief obstacle in numerous previous attempts to expand federal “hate crimes” law, and Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual-rights group, told AP today’s was an “incredibly historic vote” that could give momentum to similar action in the Senate.

Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America was stunned the vote was taken with virtually no notice.

“We had no notice that this was happening,” Knight said in an e-mail announcing the action. “The only positive thing I can say is that this was a recorded vote.”

The bill itself was approved by a 371-52 vote in the House.

A roll call of the Conyers amendment vote can be viewed on the House of Representatives website.

The Family Research Council is blasting the action in no small terms.

“Criminalizing thoughts as well as actions, and creating special categories of victims, are contrary to our entire system of laws,” said FRC president Tony Perkins. “Furthermore, granting special protections based on one’s ‘sexual orientation’ has repeatedly been rejected by Congress. It is shocking that a bill designed to protect children from sexual predators is now being used to protect the sexual preference of homosexuals.

“The Senate should reject the House’s attempt to advance the political agenda of homosexuals at the expense of children.”

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