Bush and Hate Crimes: Standing Athwart History, Yelling Stop

May 4th, 2007

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Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill extending hate crimes protections to people victimized based on their sexuality.

Apparently, the announcement of the bill’s comfortable passage (237-189) was greeted with thunderous applause. I can relate to the joy in that chamber. This is the kind of bill that makes me proud to be an American.

Why? It helps America keep its commitment to the Golden Rule. It ensures that we all treat each other how we would like to be treated, regardless of whether we are part of the many or the few. And it reaffirms our nation’s promise made over 200 years ago that we are all created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It also solves a real problem. Every act of violence committed against an individual based on hatred for their sexuality is meant to send shockwaves of fear and intimidation throughout the entire gay community. And FBI data shows more than 1,000 reported hate crime incidents directed at gays and lesbians in the year 2005 alone. Leading law enforcement groups also agree there is a problem that merits this proposed law.

At the same time, the bill is careful not to violate other important American bedrock values. It contains explicit protections against prosecution based solely on personal thoughts or religious beliefs. And it prosecutes only bodily harm based on prejudice.

There is no denying that the bill is a step in the right direction for our country. So, what’s not to like about the Hate Crimes bill?

You could ask the President, whose senior advisers just put out a statement of his apparent intent to veto the bill should it pass the Senate (as expected) and find its way to his desk.

Under this kind of leadership, America is a kept from achieving its full potential. It summons up memories of the President’s first veto in office-just late last year-of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. Again, this was a bill that would have allowed America to progress, and with proper ethical and moral safeguards in place.

In the first issue of the National Review, William Buckley explained the purpose of his new magazine: to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop …” True conservatives like him have always feared progress – the inevitable march into the future that has, throughout our nation’s history, always meant more inclusiveness and tolerance.

On the sad day that the president vetoes this bill, I will take comfort in the fact that attempts like this to stop history are futile. I will know that the day cannot be far off when a progressive president sits down in the Rose Garden to sign the bill, in the spirit of America’s finest traditions.

I hope you’ll take a look at Third Way’s Message Memo on the Hate Crimes Bill.