Thursday, January 17, 2008

Obama: Congress's Failure To Pass Hate Crimes Legislation, Truly Unacceptable

From December 9th 2007


Cross-posted on MyDD and One Million Strong

It is a few days old (Thursday) but I just ran across this statement by Barack Obama on the spineless Democratic leaderships decision to strip the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This is a very important issue to me because I have gay uncles on both sides of the family. My godfathers are gay and yet a radical minority has used hatred and bigotry to size on people's fears and prejudices and gain political power to enforce there radical, hateful agenda. And those bigots have made it into the "mainstream" of political dialog and blocked one of the most seemingly uncontroversial and simple laws with threats of retaliation.

First I want to give you Obama's statement on the issue.

"The Senate took an important step forward in strengthening current law and fulfilling our nation’s founding principle of equality by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in September. While it is imperative that the Congress move this Defense Authorization bill, I am extremely disappointed that House and Senate negotiators failed to include this important provision in the bill being sent to the President.

"Hate crimes are unacceptable. All Americans deserve to live their lives without fear of hate driven attacks. Those who commit such heinous crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, no matter whether those crimes are committed on account of race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

"Almost 40 years after Congress first enacted a federal hate crimes law, it is our moral obligation to continue striving for equality, and ensure that the federal government, along with state and local jurisdictions, have the tools necessary to effectively prosecute these crimes. Given the rise in hate crimes nationally, failure to pass this vital legislation is truly unacceptable."

Obama released that statement after House and Senate Conferees failed to include the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Obama is an original cosponsor of the legislation. It would strengthen the federal government’s ability to assist local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by hate and which would provide additional funds to states to develop hate crime prevention programs. How can anyone not oppose hate crimes? It expanded the definition of a hate crime to include those crimes perpetrated because of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. Again how can you stand up for hate? 60 Senators voted for the amendment in September so it avoided a filibuster. It's good that 60 Senators stood up and voted against hate but how can those other 40 look in the mirror and say I believe in hate? Beacuse they are part of a extreme and radical political movement (By the way Paul Rosenberg of Open Left has a great post up on that point today)

And do you know what? Our spineless Democratic leadership (Dump Hoyer and Emanuel!) gave them cover by claiming that they didn't "have the votes" to pass the bill with this amendment. Do you know what I have to say to them? Read what Tim Walz, a newly elected Rep from a swing district that is fairly socially conservative.

"I remember looking at some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle prior to the vote," he said. Their message was clear: A vote for this measure just might guarantee that this will be your only term in Congress.

"But you know what? "I'd rather be happily teaching back here in Mankato and able to look at myself in the mirror each morning than being in Congress knowing I didn't do the right thing."


That's what politics should be about. Conviction. Standing up for what you believe in even if it isn't popular. Polls may say you can't do it but look at all the successes of conviction politics, Paul Wellstone, Tim Kaine, Russ Feingold, Howard Dean and Barack Obama. They belive in leading by principle and not by polls. They won't back down because the other side says mean, scary things. They will stand up for what they believe is right even if it means political loss. And I don't think it will. People are longing for someone who will tell it like they see it even if the way they see it is different from most people.

That's exactly why we need Barack Obama. We need him because he leads by conviction. He knows what he stands for and he stands by that and he'll stand by his and our progressive values in the White House and advocate for the voiceless because that's what he's been doing throughout his entire career.

I'm sure someone will bring up McClurkin and Obama's civil unions only position as proof that he isn't a leader on GLBT issues and is really a spineless bigot. I'm not going to defend him on those because he was wrong on McClurkin and he is wrong on not stating that he will not allow discrimination of someone based on there sexual orientation or gender identity in any form including marriage. But do you know what? He hasn't done any of those and no one who is seriously running for president has. But right now we should be able to say as a society that we will not stand for hate against ANYONE and our leaders should have the spine to make the bigots vote again and again for hate and expose themselves for who they are. I don't care if they are Democrats or Republicans. Hate is not a American value.

We need someone who will stand with conviction against spineless bigots and say enough with hate. Enough with discrimination. Enough with bigotry. It's time we as a nation stand for equality. And in 2008 we have a chance to make that reality or at least move one step closer. In 24 days Iowa will likely decide who the Democratic nominee is. They have a chance to send America a nominee who will stand up for equality. And I believe given the choice Americans will join Barack Obama and stand up for equality.

But right now you can stand up for equality. I urge you to support him but even if you don't send him a e-mail or even a small donation thanking him for his stand on this issue. And please look closely at him and consider at least making him you're second choice if you live in a caucus state.

Together we can change the world.

34 days 'till change.

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