Gallup: public favors expansion of hate crime law, despite the bleatings of the fringe

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1592) was recently passed by the U.S. House and its companion bill  (the Matthew Shepard Act) is now being considered by the Senate.

A lot of bandwidth was wasted by the gay and trans-baiting religious fundamentalists who were waging e-campaigns and bearing false witness with tales of persecuted “Christians” who would be jailed for bloviating about their opposition to homosexuality.

It turns out that these zealots are woefully out of touch with not only average Americans, but conservatives and people of all faiths, according to a May Gallup poll.

Much of the organized opposition to the expansion of the hate crime law has come from conservative religious groups, while the nation’s top Republican leader, President George W. Bush, has suggested he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk. But there is little evidence from these data to suggest that a majority of Republicans, conservatives, or more religious Americans are opposed to the new law.

There is a proposal to expand federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Would you favor or oppose expanding the federal hate crime laws in this way?

The religious and conservative leaders who are mounting a campaign against H.R. 1592 have their work cut out for them. The data reviewed in this analysis indicate that there is strong majority support for the expansion of hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity among the general American population. Specifically, there is majority support among identifiable groups of Christians, frequent church attenders, conservatives, and Republicans for expansion of the legislation.

Those opposed to the law may argue that many Americans are not aware of the implications of the law. That may be the case. It is a reasonable assumption (although not one provable by currently available data) that many Americans were unaware of this legislation before it was explained to them in the context of the May 10-13, 2007, Gallup Poll survey.

The challenge for opponents is that the fundamental idea of the new law seems acceptable to every identifiable subgroup of the Americans population. More conservative and religious subgroups of the population may be amenable to arguments about the hidden or unanticipated consequences of the legislation if presented to them through targeted media in the weeks to come, but convincing them of these facts would appear to be an uphill battle.

The message here is that the mainstream media needs to stop giving so much airtime to the James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, Tony Perkins and the rest of the bible-beating set — they clearly don’t represent a hell of a lot of thinking people on this issue. The foul hot air wasted trying to justify not adding sexual orientation and gender identity to a law that already includes classes, such as religion, is shameful and baldly bigoted.

“The Hate Crimes Act will be the first step to criminalize our rights as Christians to believe that some behaviors are sinful,” said Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson. “Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution.”

Christian leaders who have publicly opposed the bill include Family Research Council president Tony Perkins; Exodus International executive vice president Randy Thomas; the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land, who is the president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; along with Faith2Action’s president Janet Folger.

“On Tuesday, May 15, we are calling Christians all across America to come together in a unified effort to speak up and be heard on Capitol Hill,” [director of Repent America, Michael] Marcavage said in a statement. “Together, as one loud voice, we must urge our lawmakers to vote against the legislation that seeks to silence us.”

The fact that the GOP candidates are pandering to such a fringe demographic related to LGBT issues is the news here. Why pander to a group that doesn’t even represent the majority of church-going Americans if making gains in this demo is so important? How can the White House make sense of a threatened Presidential veto if this bill is favored by the people across the board as well as law enforcement agencies?

* The truth about the federal hate crimes legislation and free speech
* ‘When Homophobes Bear False Witness’

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