Today, the House is voting on the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that would enable federal officials to work with state and local officials to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
Radical right-wing groups have lobbied aggressively against this bill. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it “insidious legislation” that would “silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs.” (Listen to Dobson HERE.) The Concerned Women for America said the bill is meant to “grant official government recognition to both homosexual and cross-dressing behaviors, and to silence opposition to those behaviors.”
Today, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) reiterated this far-right talking point. He claimed that under the hate crimes bill, you would be charged with a crime if you were “thinking something bad” before you committed a crime against someone. “I just think it takes us down a path that is very scary.” Watch it:
The right-wing is wrong. This legislation goes after criminal action, like physical assaults, not name-calling or verbal abuse. The bill clearly states that “evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.”
The hate crimes legislation is by endorsed by 31 state attorneys general and leading law enforcement agencies. Under current law, federal officials are able to investigate and prosecute “attacks based on race, color, national origin and religion and because the victim was attempting to exercise a federally protected right,” but unable to intervene “in cases where women, gay, transgender or disabled Americans are victims of bias-motivated crimes for who they are.”
BOEHNER: It’s yours, yes.
REPORTER: Hate crimes legislation?
BOEHNER: Hate crimes? Yes.
REPORTER: How do you feel about it? What’s going to happen?
BOEHNER: I’ve got to tell you, I really don’t understand it. We’re going to put into place a federal law that says, not only will we punish you for the crime that you actually commit — the physical crime that you commit — but we’re also going to charge you with a crime that if we think that you were thinking bad things about this person before you committed a crime.
I just — I just really don’t understand it. I’ve been opposed to this for a long time and I remain opposed to it.
I mean, it’s a crime on what people were thinking when they were committing an act of violence. How do you walk into court and make a case for a crime because someone was thinking something bad. I just think it takes us down a path that is very scary.