July 18, 2009

There was a little bit of history made yesterday, though hardly anyone noticed: the Senate passed a hate-crimes bill.

This is historic because it marks the first time both houses have agreed to a federal law dealing with these kinds of crimes. Dating back to the failures of Congress to ever enact anti-lynching legislation, the Senate made history by forwarding the bill to the president, where he is expected to sign ... or is he?

WASHINGTON — People attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender would receive federal protections under a Senate-approved measure that significantly expands the reach of hate crimes law.

The Senate bill also would make it easier for federal prosecutors to step in when state or local authorities are unable or unwilling to pursue hate crimes.

"The Senate made a strong statement this evening that hate crimes have no place in America," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the chamber voted Thursday to attach the legislation as an amendment to a $680 billion defense spending bill expected to be completed next week.

The House in April approved a similar bill and President Barack Obama has urged Congress to send him hate crimes legislation, presenting the best scenario for the measure to become law since Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., first introduced it more than a decade ago.

Republicans will have the opportunity to propose several more changes to the hate crimes bill on Monday, but that will not change its status as part of the must-pass defense bill.

However, Obama is threatening to veto the bill if it comes attached with funding for F-22s that John McCain and Co. have stuck onto it. Eventually it's expected to return to his desk if that happens, but there's always the chance for Republican mischief in the interim.

In any event, perhaps the best thing about its passage is that it makes the wingnuts very, very unhappy. Even John McCain was spouting off about its inclusion as David Doody at HuffPo noted:

"While we have young Americans fighting and dying in two wars we're going to take up the hate-crimes bill," McCain said, "because the majority leader thinks that's more important, more important than legislation concerning the defense of this nation." And later: "The Senate will pass a highly controversial, highly explosive piece of legislation to be attached to the authorization for the defense and the security of this nation. That's wrong."

Better yet, it makes people like Glenn Beck even more insane than they already are.

Yesterday on his Fox News show, Beck tried to make the case that there's a logical reason to include veterans in hate-crime statistics, and cited the example of the military recruiters shot in Arkansas by an angry Muslim man was proof of this problem. His guest had a couple more incidents.

Well, it's been our position all along that recruiters aren't included in the legislation for a number of reasons (including the fact that veteran status is a problem in terms of equal-protection issues), the main one being that there isn't an identifiable problem that needs addressing under this legislation.

All that Beck and his guest have to do is go visit the FBI's Website and look up, say, the 2007 hate crime statistics. You'll see that there are about 8,000 of them reported to the FBI in about any given year. The largest single motivation is anti-black bias crimes (2,658 of them in 2007). Even in the category that people like Beck like to pretend doesn't exist -- anti-white bias crimes -- there were 749 reported offenses.

Can Beck and his guest demonstrate anything even close to those kinds of numbers -- and thus a demonstrable need for inclusion? I would wager not.

Besides, they're not actually serious about this. They're just trying to add to the pile of BS they've been spreading about this bill from the get-go. Like anybody's paying attention to what they think anyway.

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