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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 25, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 21Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Senators Differ on Hate Crime Legislation
New York Times 21Jun00 N2
By Adam Clymer

WASHINGTON, DC -- LDS Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) disagreed with fellow LDS Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) and with his long-time friend Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) over their hate crime legislation. Kennedy and Smith together sponsored the legislation which would make hate attacks on gays and other groups a federal crime. The legislation is the first time that either house of the US Congress backed protecting gays in a roll-call vote that could have political consequences.

But in spite of Hatch's opposition, the legislation was approved by the Senate on a 57 to 42 vote, with US Vice President Al Gore standing in the wings ready to cast a tie-breaking vote, should one be necessary.

The Senate had passed a similar measure last year by unanimous consent, which doesn't put individual Senators on record for voting for or against the legislation, but last year's bill died in a House-Senate conference committee. Republican leaders say they plan to kill the Kennedy-Smith bill again this year. But Gore says that the administration will attempt to include it in a major spending bill before Congress can adjourn.

Smith argued for the measure in an editorial published Monday in the Washington Post, in which he explained his sponsorship of this bill while he opposed other gay rights, such as the right to marry that the LDS Church has fought against in many states. Smith said in his editorial that federal hate crime legislation protecting gays is necessary because "while perpetrated upon an individual, the violence is directed at a community." In yesterday's debate, Smith argued that fighting against hate crosses ideological boundaries, "No matter how we pray, nor how we sin, we can stand up for each other," he said. "We can stand up against hate."

But the only senator speaking against the bill was LDS Church member Hatch. He argued that this legislation wasn't necessary because hate crimes are already adequately covered by state laws. He said that a federal law was simply another incursion into state authority.

Hatch proposed a narrower bill that would study the state's efforts against hate crimes. But, Hatch added, if it were determined that states were ignoring hate crimes, he might support a bill like the Kennedy-Smith bill, "Hate crimes are abysmal," he said. "They are horrible. We should all be against them." His proposal for a study was also adopted by the Senate, 50 to 49.


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