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Senate hate crime bill won’t include trans
Impact of House passage on Senate, ENDA unclear - Blade
By EARTHA JANE MELZER
Friday, September 30, 2005
The passage of a trans-inclusive hate crimes bill shows that there has been progress in educating lawmakers on gender identity issues, advocates said, but achieving protections against discrimination in employment and other key areas will require much more work.
The House passed the first hate crimes legislation that explicitly includes gender identity on Sept. 14 as part of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was an amendment to the Child Safety Act.
The House, which supported a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill without language on gender identity last year with a 213-186 vote, approved the sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive bill 223-199.
Chris Labonte, deputy political director for the Human Rights Campaign, said that in lobbying for the bill’s passage he did not encounter a single member of Congress who withdrew support for the bill because of the inclusion of gender identity. The small difference in the level of support for the hate crimes bill is more likely attributable to changes in the composition of Congress itself, Labonte said.
“Not many believe that the federal government should not be getting involved if a person is targeted for violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Chris Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU.
Anders said that when the hate crimes bill was first drafted eight years ago it included gender, sexual orientation and disability, and it was generally assumed that gender identity would be picked up as a protected class within these definitions.
Because the Bush administration has not been supportive of hate crimes legislation, Anders said, “The concern is that if the bill passes, the Bush Justice Department will take the most narrow view. It increases the need to be very explicit.”
The version of the hate crimes bill that was introduced by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate in May does not include gender identity.
Chris Matthews, a spokesperson for Smith, said the Senate bill would not be amended to include gender identity because the bill has passed the Senate four times before, and to change it might jeopardize its passage.
“The Senate works on precedent,” Matthews said. “This bill has good bipartisan support, the best thing for hate crimes legislation is for it to pass.”
It is not yet clear when the Senate will vote on the bill, but should it pass again, the House and Senate would resolve differences between the two versions in a conference committee.
Trans-inclusive ENDA still controversial
It is not clear what meaning the House’s passage of the hate crimes bill will have for other proposed legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA, first introduced in 1994, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have said that including gender identity in ENDA would be politically untenable and likely doom the measure. Frank and Kennedy did not respond by press time to questions about whether the passage of the trans-inclusive hate crimes measure had changed their thinking on the matter.
Labonte said that HRC is in the process of drafting a new version of ENDA. Last year, in response to protests by trans rights activists, HRC resolved not to support passage of gay workplace protections unless they also included protection for transgendered workers as well.
Labonte said some lawmakers comfortable with federal intervention on hate crimes may be less comfortable requiring businesses to enforce gay and trans non-discrimination policies. Some opponents of ENDA argue that the measure would expose businesses to expensive lawsuits.
American Civil Liberties Union
Gender Identity & Transgender Rights