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Today’s email from the Human Rights Campaign:
As I write this, I am filled with both deep disappointment and gratitude. I am disappointed because our fight for a hate crimes bill has been derailed, but grateful for the historic advances that we were able to achieve this year.
As you all know, we have made momentous advancements this year by moving the federal hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to becoming law. For the first time ever, in one year we were able to pass the fully-inclusive legislation through both chambers of Congress – a truly historic feat.
If you recall, the Matthew Shepard Act first passed the House of Representatives back in May as a stand-alone piece of legislation. It then moved to the Senate, where it passed 60 to 39 in September as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) attached the Matthew Shepard Act to the Department of Defense Authorization bill because President Bush had announced that he would veto a free-standing hate crimes bill. By amending hate crimes to this larger bill, Senators Kennedy and Smith thought that we had a better chance of getting the president’s signature. After all, Bush would have to veto the entire piece of legislation – hate crimes AND programs for his war in Iraq – to reject hate crimes protections.
But in a frustrating move yesterday, during the very last legislative step – a conference committee working out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill – we received word that the Matthew Shepard Act would be dropped from the final version of the bill. The hate crimes veto threat issued by the White House and organized opposition by House Republican Leadership cost significant numbers of votes on the right. Iraq-related provisions, which many progressive Democrats opposed, cost votes on the left. Moderate Democrats, many of whom voted for the hate crimes bill in May, did not want to test the President’s veto threat and risk a delay in increased pay for military personnel. All of these factors resulted in insufficient votes to secure passage of the bill with the hate crimes provision.
HRC coordinated a major final push to protect this bill. 40,000 HRC activists responded to our call and wrote to Congress. We helped organize a coalition effort with 120 national and local organizations. We held 11th-hour meetings with lawmakers.
Despite the anger we all feel that we fell short so close to the finish line, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we did succeed in moving hate crimes legislation the closest it has ever been to hitting the President’s desk for signature. And rest assured, the Human Rights Campaign is not done fighting. We are not giving up on efforts to find another legislative vehicle, in the second half of this Congress, to move the Matthew Shepard Act. Yes, we made historic advancements, but we will not be satisfied until we get a President who will use his or her pen to enshrine into our federal law books that violence against the GLBT community will not be tolerated in this country.
We have been a leader in the fight for hate crimes legislation for over a decade, and we’re not about to let this setback deter us. We will not rest until these protections are law.
We also can’t lose track of the bigger picture for 2008. On top of working to advance this bill and the rest of our equality agenda, we are already mobilizing around the 2008 elections. We are investing major resources to:
These are the moments when your support counts most. Together, we’ll find the right path to victory. We know it is there.
I received this email to day and urge everyone to follow the links and take action. Thanks!
The Matthew Shepard Act is at risk!
Tell your lawmakers to protect the hate crimes legislation we’ve worked so hard for.
The Matthew Shepard Act could be abandoned by Congressional leaders unless we act immediately.
Email Congress today and stand up against hate crimes.
I have alarming news. The Matthew Shepard Act – whose passage in the Senate and House required months of effort – is now in serious jeopardy of not making it to the President’s desk.
The hate crimes legislation we’ve fought for has reached its final step before being sent to President Bush, but some lawmakers are working to derail it. Right now there is a very real danger that the Matthew Shepard Act won’t even make it to the President for his signature or veto. If that happens, we could lose months or years of progress.
We likely have less than a week to act. Tell your lawmakers the Matthew Shepard Act must not be abandoned by the Conference Committee next week.
How can a hate crimes victory be so close and yet still so much in jeopardy?
Here’s what’s happening: Senate leadership employed a commonplace strategy with this bill. They calculated that the only chance of the Matthew Shepard Act surviving Bush’s veto pen was if it were attached to a “must-pass” Department of Defense bill. But now that House and Senate are reconciling their versions of the DoD bill, it is under attack from anti-GLBT conservatives against hate crimes legislation, as well as progressive, pro-equality lawmakers who oppose some of the bill’s provisions for the war in Iraq.
We cannot let the Matthew Shepard Act be abandoned when we have come so close to getting it to the White House! We only have a matter of days before Congress is back in session and the final decision is made. This issue is especially timely right now. Last week, the FBI reported that hate crimes rose nearly 8% last year.
You know how hard we’ve worked to pass the Matthew Shepard Act. Since April, hundreds of thousands of HRC supporters like you have bombarded Congress with letters and phone calls. You’ve enlisted friends in the fight, written to local papers, passed out postcards at events. You’ve given time and you’ve given financial support.
Don’t back down now – not if you care about the safety of GLBT Americans.
Thank you, again, for your ongoing commitment to equality and justice.
Having trouble clicking on the links above? Simply copy and paste this URL into your browser’s address bar to take action today: http://www.hrcactioncenter.org/campaign/DoD_HateCrimes/