The Matthew Shepard Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing hate crimes statutes, made history when it passed both houses of Congress this year. This week it was dropped from the Department of Defense Authorization bill that was under consideration in conference committee.
Opposition to Iraq funding by Democrats otherwise supportive of hate crimes legislation got in the way of passage. “House Democrats tell me, `Of course I support the hate crimes bill, but don’t tell me to vote for the war,'” Barney Frank, D-Mass, told the Washington Blade. “They’re saying, ‘Why are you asking me to vote for the war in order to vote for this'”
At least 150 Republicans who want the hate crimes legislation stripped from the defense bill opposed the legislation on its face, as the social conservative base of the party put pressure on Congress to remove the hate crimes act.
“Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, especially given the historic passage of hate crimes legislation through both houses of Congress this year. After more than ten years and several successful bipartisan votes, it is heartbreaking to fall short this close to the finish line,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release Thursday.
According to the Washington Blade, congressional Democrats hope to introduce a free-standing bill as soon as February.