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article imageU.S. House Passes 'Matthew Shepard Act' Despite GOP Opposition

By Can Tran     Apr 29, 2009 in Politics
After steep opposition from the GOP in the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill known as the Matthew Shepard Act was passed.
Today is the last of the first 100 days of office for new United States President Barack Obama. The last few days have been quite interesting for Obama. During the first 100 days in general, Obama has reversed most of former President George W. Bush’s executive orders and vetoes.
Today in New Hampshire, a piece of legislature has passed. If signed by Governor John Lynch, it could make New Hampshire the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage. This has been a nationwide heated topic for 2008 and 2009. This could be hailed as a victory for gay rights activists. However, there is something else that can also be hailed as a victory for gay rights activists.
The United States House of Representatives managed to pass the “Matthew Shepard Act.” The bill was named after Matthew Wayne Shepardd who died on Oct. 12, 1998. He was 21 at the time of death. His killers are serving life behind bars. During the trial, witnesses said that Shepard was attacked because of his sexual preferences. The piece of legislature was introduced back in 2007.
As Wikipedia describes, the Matthew Shepard Act "...would expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability." The bill would also:
• Remove the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school;
• Give federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
• Provide $10 million in funding for 2008 and 2009 to help State and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
• Require the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked).
Should Obama sign this act, it will become law. However, the United States Senate will have to come up with its own version of the bill.
In a Reuters article, it explains that the vote passed through the U.S. House by a 249 to 175 vote margin. That means 175 House Representatives showed opposition to the bill.
One could ask: How will the Westboro Baptist Church react? Also, one could ask: Will members of the Westboro Baptist Church start picketing again?
In an article on the CNN Ticker, it was reported there was steep GOP opposition to the passing of the Matthew Shepard Act. Opponents of the bill said it is discriminatory. In this piece, GOP Representative Trent Franks of Arizona says the bill puts equal protection in danger. He adds that it destroys equality of protection amongst all groups.
So far, this could spell out the omen of a new possible heated debate: What really constitutes to a hate crime? In addition, it brings up this argument: What is freedom of expression? What is considered an act of hate?
In the Reuters article, GOP Representative Lamar Smith had words similar to what Franks had spoken. Franks gives the argument that this bill if signed into law says will undermine equal protection. He gives the argument that handing out justice to perpetrators of a crime will end up depending on gender, ethnicity, sexual preferences, and so forth. Smith is voicing concerns that one person committing a crime will be issued a penalty while the other person will be given a different penalty for committing the same crime.
In an Associated Press article, it explains that Obama supports the bill. According to him, it will strengthen civil rights protections. There is one question that needs to be asked: How will the Matthew Shepard Act fare on the floor of the United States Senate. While it passed through the US House, the US Senate is a completely different story.
In an article on Boston.com’s Political Intelligence section, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is voicing his support for the Matthew Shepard Act. The LGBT community gave praise to the passing of this bill.
An article on Politico picked up something quite interesting as well; this article revolves around GOP Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. Also, there is a YouTube video on Foxx in respect to Matthew Shepard’s death. Foxx is one of the Representatives that voiced opposition to the bill.
More about Gay rights, Matthew shepard, Gop
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