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