Matthew Shepard Act passes the Senate but will it become law?

Jul 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Editorial, Featured Articles, Images, National, News

On July 17th the U.S. Senate voted 249 to 175 to approve the Matthew Shepard Act Hate Crimes Prevention Act that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. That is great news!

The not so good news is that it has been bundled with a Department of Defense authorization bill that may or may be signed by the President.

Just today the U.S. Senate adopted four amendments than have some groups concerned. Senator Session (R-AL) submitted three of the four amendments and Senator Kennedy (D-MA) submitted the fourth.

SA 1615, adds the death penalty to the provisions that would mandate the imposition of the death penalty for certain crimes. The Human Rights Commission, (HRC) also express strong disappointment on these amendments and says this was an effort by those who oppose the bill to derail it. Sen. Kennedy on the other hand has proposed additional restrictions on use of the death penalty under the Act in what seems to be an effort to counter the Sessions amendment.

In a statement released today by The National Center for Lesbian Rights they say, “We strongly oppose the imposition of a mandatory death penalty by the federal government. This amendment undermines the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce bias and discrimination, by supporting a punishment that has been applied in a notoriously biased and discriminatory way.”

Sessions also submitted an amendment that would require the Attorney General to establish guidelines for the “neutral and objective criteria for determining whether a crime was motivated by the status of the victim.”

The fourth amendment, SA 1616, creates a new federal criminal offense for cases that involve assaults or battery against a U.S. service member or a member of the service member’s immediate family.

HRC worked to defeat these amendments but was unsuccessful they now have sent a letter to Senators opposing these amendments. editor, independent journalist & LGBT media spokesperson,
Jody May-Chang now writes on "As I See It...Reporting from the front lines

As I See It Jody Reporting from the front lines

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