ACLU Opposes Senate Hate Crimes Bill

Well, this is interesting. The ACLU says that the Senate version of the hate crimes act does not protect free speech as vigorously as the House version and wants the Senate to adopt the other chamber’s bill.

In its July 17 statement, the ACLU says the Senate hate crimes measure, set to be an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, lacks “the strong protections for speech and association” found in the House version of the legislation that lawmakers in that chamber approved in June. The Senate approved a motion for cloture on the hate crimes amendment late Thursday night, 63-28. Final passage of the amendment was expected Monday, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The amendment is identical in language to the hate crimes measure Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced earlier this year. It would allow the Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of hate crimes committed against LGBT people that result in death or serious injury. The ACLU instead calls for the passage of the House version of the hate crimes bill. Chris Anders, ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, said in the statement that ACLU’s experience has been that “the fight for better and stronger civil rights protections is more successful when free speech and association are protected along the way.”

The Human Rights Campaign disputes the ACLU’s position, saying each version of the bill does “contain explicit language protecting speech and association.”

RELATED: All three of the amendments to the bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) were adopted yesterday.