Senate Extends Protections to Gays, Lesbians in Hate Crimes Act

Opponents of the bill expressed concern that it makes acts perpetrated against members of the gay and transgender community federal crimes. They said the bill would create a new class of crime -- crimes against people based on the victims' perception of their own sexuality and not on a positive legal definition -- essentially a "thought crime."

"It makes a crime based on the perpetrator's assessment of the victim's self-perception," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, this morning on the Senate floor.

Hatch also argued that the law is unnecessary because laws in 46 states already prosecute hate crimes. He said the version passed today by the Senate is "unwise, unnecessary and unconstitutional."

"Those who perpetrated the Shepard murder in Wyoming," Hatch pointed out, "are already sentenced to death or in prison for their lives under state law.… There is no evidence that state governments are incapable of prosecuting these crimes or that they are failing to do so," he said.

Thirty-nine Republicans opposed the bill. Sen. John McCain was the only absent senator.

Republicans who supported the amendment were: Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, George Voinovich of Ohio and John Warner of Virginia.

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