Saturday and Sunday this week, the 11th and 12th of October, will see thousands of LGBT activists descend on our nation’s capital for the National Equality March sponsored by Equality Across America. Many religious LGBT advocacy groups will participate:
Meanwhile, on Saturday evening, President Obama will address the 13th Annual National Dinner of the Human Rights Campaign.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
President Obama is not the first sitting President to attend an HRC Dinner: that honor goes to President Clinton in 1997.
And all of this comes together as the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes bill nears final passage.
Today [October 8] the U.S. House of Representatives passed the conference report for the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill by a vote of 281 to 146, bringing critical hate crimes protections closer to becoming law than ever before. Earlier this week, the House voted down a last-ditch effort to eliminate the hate crimes language, through a procedural effort called a motion to instruct conferees.
The conference report now proceeds to the Senate for its final vote in Congress. In July, the Senate voted to attach the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act to the Defense Authorization measure and is expected to approve the conference report as early as next week. President Obama has repeatedly pledged to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Integrity USA, the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group, quotes this news report about the historic legislation:
WASHINGTON — A House vote Thursday put Congress on the verge of significantly expanding hate crimes law to make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation. The legislation would bring major changes to law enacted in the days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
“No American should ever have to suffer persecution or violence because of who they are, how they look or what they believe,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noting that hate crimes legislation has been on her agenda since she first entered Congress more than two decades ago.
Civil rights groups and their Democratic allies have come close to expanding the hate crimes bill several times in the past decade, but have always fallen short because of lack of House-Senate coordination or opposition from former President George W. Bush.
But this time, it appears that they may succeed. The legislation was attached to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill that the Senate could approve as early as next week. President Barack Obama has promised to sign it into law. The late Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was a longtime advocate of the hate crimes legislation.
The House vote on the defense bill was 281-146. Unlike usual defense bill votes, most of those in opposition — 131 out of the 146 — were Republicans objecting strenuously to inclusion of what they referred to as “thought crimes” legislation in a defense bill.