(H.R.1913) Legislation that provided federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and to add disability, age, and sexual orientation to the categories of protected classes - - on the motion to send the bill back to committee and add members of the armed forces and law enforcement as protected categories
H.R. 1913gave the U.S. Attorney General authority to provide assistance to state and local governments to investigate and prosecute violent crimes motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This was a vote on a motion to recommit (send back) the bill to committee with instructions to insert additional language that would, among other things, add current or former members of the armed forces or law enforcement officers to the class of individuals protected by it.
Those supporting H.R.1913 had been arguing it would enhance American’s tradition of protecting liberty and granting acceptance. They also argued that the government needed to make clear that hate crimes committed because of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability should be categorized in the same way as hate crimes motivated by factors such as race or ethnicity. Those Members opposing the bill had been arguing that it would have a “chilling effect” on free expression, that it would make thought a crime, and that bad ideas such as bias on account of sexual orientation would eventually be shown to be “bankrupt.”
Rep Gohmert (R-TX), who offered the motion, said that the proposed language should be added based on the idea that every American deserves to be equally protected. He noted that military personnel were abused after the Vietnam War and “there is absolutely no question that law enforcement officers are frequently targeted specifically because of who they are and because they are wearing the uniform . . . .”
Rep. Conyers (D-MI), who was leading the support for H.R. 1913, opposed the motion. He noted that the intent of the legislation was to protect those who are threatened because they are “despised”, who are not safe, and who are “being denied the most fundamental protection of liberty. They are targeted for the most extreme violence by extremists who have decided, in their own warped view of how we should exist among each other in our society, as people who don't deserve to have life.” Conyers then argued that the proposed instructions are not consistent with that intent. He said that “members of the armed services are not victims of bias-based prejudice or hatred . . . they are not in the same situation as the groups we are seeking to protect in this bill. Besides, specific protections for members of the armed services already exist in the Federal law----it makes killing someone in the military a capital crime.”
The motion failed by a vote of 185-225. One hundred and sixty Republicans and twenty-five Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and nine Democrats and sixteen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, service in the armed forces or law enforcement was not added as a protected category and the House moved to an immediate vote on its passage of H.R. 1913.