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Frank says trans issue stalled Senate hate crime measure
House passed trans-inclusive bill
By ELIZABETH WEILL-GREENBERG | Dec 21, 2:11 PM Blade
A hate crimes bill, which has passed the Senate three times before, is now stalled because of disagreements over extending specific protections for gender identity, according to Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
“The inclusion of the transgender provision is clearly holding up the bill in the Senate,” said Frank, who is gay. “It’s clear to me that the inclusion of transgender language is an obstacle.”
The House in September passed a transgender inclusive hate crimes bill as an amendment to the Child Safety Act. The amendment was co-sponsored by Frank, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and passed 223-199.
Last year, the House voted 213-186 in favor of a hate crimes bill that only included sexual orientation.
Several anti-gay conservative groups mobilized to protest after the hate crimes amendment passed in September. One group, Concerned Women for America, asked members to call their senators urging them to vote against the amendment.
The Senate version, sponsored by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), includes protection based on sexual orientation and real or perceived gender. Unlike the House version, there is no explicit language calling for transgender crime victims to be included.
Chris Matthews, a spokesperson for Sen. Smith, said after the House vote that the Senate version would not be changed to include gender identity.
“The Senate works on precedent,” Matthews said at the time. “This bill has good bipartisan support. The best thing for hate crimes legislation is for it to pass.”
Steve Adamske, a press spokesman for Frank, said the bill was "caught up in Republican partisanship."
"Why won't Smith's office just move the bill?" Adamske said on Wednesday. Kennedy and Smith were not available for comment this week.
The Child Safety Act, which is likely to include a hate crimes amendment, has not been scheduled for a vote in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed its own version of the Child Safety Act, called the Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), without the hate crimes amendment.
A Hatch spokesperson said the bill was put on hold so a hate crimes amendment can be attached.
Lisa Mottet of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force said the Sex Offender Act sponsors are holding up the vote, adding that Kennedy and Smith have said they don’t plan to introduce transgender inclusive language.
Several gay and transgender rights advocates said politicians have no reason to fear political fallout if they extend the hate crime measure to include protections based on gender identity.
Those who oppose gay rights often make no distinctions between gay and transgender issues, argued Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“It’s seen as a gay bill whether transgender protections are in it or not,” said Keisling. “Our enemies, like the American Family Association, are liars, false prophets and charlatans.”
Officials who worry transgender protections will hurt them politically are suffering from “obstacle delusion,” she said. Voting for trans-inclusive bills has not been an issue in re-election campaigns, she said.
Keisling’s group was one of about 40 organizations that signed a letter addressed to Kennedy, asking him to include language that explicitly protects transgender people. The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP also signed on.
The Human Rights Campaign decided not to sign on to the letter. Chris Labonte, the organization’s deputy political director, said HRC wants to see the hate crimes bill in a conference committee where transgender-inclusive language can be added to the final version, he said.