From Kerry Eleveld, who covers D.C. for The Advocate:
Despite numerous ups and downs, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act remains in tact and stands a reasonable chance of making it to President Barack Obama’s desk for a signature later this year.
The biggest hurdle to hate crimes becoming law is that while it passed the House as a stand-alone bill, it was not included in the House version of the Department of Defense authorization bill. Because the Senate passed hate crimes as an amendment to DOD legislation, the two versions of that bill must be reconciled in conference during August and September.
A spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign said all parties involved in that discussion have expressed support for including the hate crimes provision in the final DOD bill.
“We have strong commitments from the leaders and our allies on the Hill and in the White House that they want to see the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes measure remain in the bill and get to the president’s desk for signature,” said Allison Herwitt, legislative director for HRC.
One major roadblock to enacting Hate Crimes was removed Tuesday when the Senate voted 58-40 to strip $1.75 billion in funding for F-22 fighter jets that President Barack Obama vehemently opposed.
Keep in mind, the Hate Crimes bill already passed in both houses of Congress back in 2007. This is supposed to be the easy one.
While not at the top of everyone’s priority list for LGBT legislation in 2009, enacting the legislation is important. And, the process has shown us what we’re still up against in the U.S. Senate when it comes to LGBT-related legislation. The Senate is a far, far different beast than the House. In the House, the process is rigid and tightly controlled by leadership. For example, amendments can’t be added from the House floor during unless approved in advance by the House Rules Committee. The Senate is the opposite. Every Senator has the power to thwart progress. And, Senate Republicans use every legislative and procedural trick to obstruct bills they oppose.
We’ve got our work cut out for us. And, to pass ENDA, repeal DADT and repeal DOMA, we’re going to need our “fierce advocate” in the White House to fight hard for us. Very hard. So far we’ve heard words, but no action. We’ll know the White House is serious when the President convenes one of his high-level strategy sessions to discuss LGBT legislation. That’s the pattern with this White House. When they really want something, Team Obama lets everyone (meaning the Hill, the media and the advocates) know it. On gay issues, that hasn’t happened yet.