There is a report that House Conferees on the Defense Authorization Act will scrap the Matthew Shepard Act that was attached to the bill in the Senate.
House Democrats are reportedly resigned to removing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime bill from defense authorization legislation.
Congressional Quarterly reports that House Democratic leaders believe they lack the votes to pass the measure.
The Shepard Act would add sexuality to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law.
CQ, which covers Capitol Hill extensively, quoted unnamed House aides as saying House members on the conference committee are rewriting the defense bill and will likely recommend leaving out the hate crime provision.
That has apparently sparked differences with Senate conferees who want the Shepard Act to remain. Nevertheless it is expected that a compromise will be reached where the act will not be part of the spending bill.
"It looks like it's got a lot of trouble," George Miller (D-Calif.) told CQ. "so far, nobody's come up with a whip count that says it could pass."
There are a couple problems with this situation. First, it doesn't even make sense. The House of Representatives was able to pass a fully-inclusive stand alone hate crimes bill this year. It defies logic to tell us now that they don't have the votes now that it is attached to the Defense Authorization bill. If anything, it should make it significantly easier to pass.
After all, this is legislation that I'm told is supported by about 80 percent of the public in opinion polls. It's also named after a kid who was beaten to death and has become an icon in American history. But, the Democrats are scared that Bush may veto the bill and they'll get blamed for trying to starve soldiers. There go the Democrats again. Scared of our own shadow.
This is shaping up to be a complete sell-out of any campaign promises that Democrats made to the gay community. Repeatedly, officials within the Democratic Party promised hate crimes legislation and an Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If this report is true, then they are batting ZERO.
Honestly, the Democratic Majority has been a string of disappointments for those who were hungry for change following twelve years of almost exclusive Republican rule on Capitol Hill.
In addition to the disappointing (at best) handling of these issues, it doesn't stop there. In a New York Times editorial on December 2, it became clearer that House Democrats were ready to fund $28 million in abstinence-only programs. That amounts to nothing more than a handout to right-wing groups that are blind to the fact that these programs DO NOT WORK. Further, they completely ignore LGBT youth and specific issues that they need to be aware of.
Not only do Democratic Leaders in Congress need to cease their fear of The Right, they need to start doing the RIGHT things. Thus far, I've been willing to give them time to find their footing and grow into their newly won majority. My patience is wearing thin and so is America's.
The final piece in this puzzle is the effectiveness of gay rights organizations. They raise tens of millions of dollars a year from dedicated activists. Thus far, there is very little to show in Congress that their approach is effective. LGBT leaders need to decide if they are going to be inside the beltway political lobbyists who care more about cocktail parties or whether they are indeed civil rights organizations dedicated to principle. Will they use this as another opportunity to raise money? Or will they go to Capitol Hill and raise hell for being lied to?
We will soon see.
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