Hate crimes bill scrapped 

Following the defeat of legislation that would have added sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes law, Ryan Acker was compelled to attach a footnote.

"Violence against gay people is not OK," said Acker, director of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Acker's comment came after he heard Louis P. Sheldon give kudos to the unnamed House Republican leaders that defeated the measure on Oct. 7.

"This anti-religious legislation would have chilled the freedom of speech of millions of Americans who believe that homosexuality is a sinful behavior and a sexual perversion," wrote Sheldon, the chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Traditional Values Coalition.

The hate crime provision was initially contained in the 2005 defense authorization bill that was approved 213-186 in the House of Representatives. But House Republicans, lobbied by several Christian groups, including Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, stripped the language by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore.

After Sheldon issued his comments, Acker responded by noting that gays and lesbians are not sexually perverse, nor are they intent to restrict free speech. Rather, he said gays supported the measure in hopes that they would receive the same protections as people who are protected on the basis of their religion, race, color or national origin.

Colorado's five Republican members of Congress opposed extending hate crime protection to gays and lesbians; the state's two Democrats were for it.

Dozens of civil rights groups were disappointed by the defeat, as was the mother of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was brutally beaten and hung to a wooden fence before dying six years ago.

-- Michael de Yoanna


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