The White House has indicated that even if new federal hate crimes legislation passes Congress today, the President will veto it.
A statement from the Executive Office of the President states:
“The Administration favours strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, colour, religion, or national origin.
“However, the Administration believes that H.R. 1592 (the Shepard Act) is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable.”
Christian activists and homophobic lobby groups such as Concerned Women for America have waged a concerted campaign against the legislation in Congress.
The new law would extend protections on the grounds of race or religion to cover LGBT people, but requires the President’s signature to become law.
Matthew Shepard was beaten and left for dead, tied to a fence in freezing Wyoming in 1998.
He was the victim of a hate crime, targeted because he was gay.
His mother has been lobbying Congress to pass the new legislation.
In an opinion piece for politico.com she explained the current climate of resistance to protections for LGBT people:
“Congressional offices all across Washington are being flooded with phone calls opposing the legislation because political organisations on the ultra-right have been lying to their members, and telling them that this legislation would punish religious people for anti-gay speech, dubbing this a “thought crimes bill,” Mrs Shepard wrote.
“One group spreading misinformation has even gone so far as to put a picture of Jesus on a “Wanted” poster, implying that religious people who speak out against homosexuality could become the targets of criminal investigations.
“Obviously, that’s just not true.
“The people spreading this type of propaganda are blatantly lying to their members out of fear that the federal government might finally legislatively recognise that gay Americans exist, and need the same rights and protections the rest of us take for granted.”
The Democrat seizure of power in Washington in January means that the hate crime legislation now has a better chance of passing than when it was first proposed by President Clinton to a hostile Republican Congress in 1999.
Attempts to reintroduce the legislation failed the next year.