Gay Protection Tacked onto Defense Bill; Bush's Veto Would Be First in U.S. History

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Gay Protection Tacked onto Defense Bill; Bush's Veto Would Be First in U.S. History


Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Democrat-led Senate yesterday adopted legislation giving homosexuals additional protections under federal hate-crime laws, attaching the measure to the defense authorization bill and daring President Bush to veto it as promised.

"The president of the United States has never vetoed, in the history of the United States, a defense authorization bill," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and chief sponsor of the amendment. "For this reason and for many others ... the defense authorization deserves to be passed [into law]"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the measure only served to jeopardize the entire bill, including military pay raises, funds for wounded veterans and other popular programs.

"Do we want to protect the defense policy matters in this bill that actually matter to our forces in the field, or do we want to debate political and social issues on this measure?" the Kentucky Republican said in floor debate before the votes.

The amendment, which charges the Justice Department with investigating crimes potentially motivated by sexual orientation as it can for crimes considered racially or religiously motivated, passed on a voice vote after the chamber voted 60-39 to end a filibuster. Forty-nine Democrats, nine Republicans and two independents provided the required 60 votes to proceed to final consideration.

Mr. Kennedy and supporters of the measure, similar to three versions that have failed in the past decade, likened hate crimes to terrorism and said the defense bill is a perfect fit for it.

"The defense authorization is about dealing with the challenges of terrorism overseas. ... This [bill] is about terrorism in our neighborhood," Mr Kennedy said.

The White House said the bill makes federal crimes out of acts that already are against the law and might violate the Constitution.

"Federalizing of criminal law concerning the violence prohibited by the bill would be constitutional only if done in the implementation of a power granted to the federal government, such as the power to protect federal personnel, to regulate interstate commerce or to enforce equal protection of the laws," the administration's policy statement on the bill says.

Democrats say they relish vetoes of the defense bill or legislation to expand the State Children's Health Care Program, which Mr. …

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Gay Protection Tacked onto Defense Bill; Bush's Veto Would Be First in U.S. History
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