HuffPo: 35 Senate Republicans Voted Against Hate Crimes Legislation

Jodi Jacobson

Huffington Post reports that earlier today 35 Senate Republicans voted against passage of the defense authorization bill because it also contained hate crimes legislation. The defense bill including the hate crimes legislation, was sent on for final vote, and passed today.

Huffington Post reports that earlier today 35 Senate Republicans voted against passage of the defense authorization bill because it also contained hate crimes legislation. The defense bill including the hate crimes legislation, was sent on for final vote, and passed today. 

The National Center for Transgender Equality celebrated a hard-won victory:

In an historic
move, the United States Senate, by a vote of 68 to 29, joined the House of Representatives in passing The
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will be
the first federal law to include gender identity and transgender people. Once
signed by the President, this law will add sexual orientation, gender identity,
gender and disability to the categories included in existing federal hate
crimes law and will allow local governments who are unable or unwilling to
address hate crimes to receive assistance from the federal government.
President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.

The earlier vote, however, brought criticism, especially following on the heels of another vote this week in which Republicans rejected a bill that would have forbidden defense contractors from asking employees to sign away their rights in the case of rape of sexual assault.

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Senate Harry Reid criticized the actions of Republicans in voting against the hate crimes bill on an important defense authorization act:

"It is
outrageous and unacceptable that Senate Republicans would vote against
pay raises for our troops, battlefield equipment upgrades and increased
funding for veterans’ health care as we continue to fight two wars. And
they decided to do this all for the sake of stopping passage of
landmark legislation that will bring justice to those who commit
violent crimes based on bigotry and prejudice. What message does that
send to our country and, more importantly, to our troops?"

Indeed, says Jeff Muskus of Huffington Post:

It’s not easy to get 35 Republican senators to vote against defense spending — unless hate crimes legislation is involved.

The Senate narrowly invoked cloture on Thursday, 64 to 35, on the
defense authorization package with the bill named for Matthew Shepard
attached. The bill, named for a gay Wyoming teenager who was kidnapped
and beaten to death in 1998, makes it a federal crime to assault
someone on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Senate Republicans, writes Muskus, conceded that the Shepard bill swung their votes
against the defense package.

"The bill includes hate crimes
legislation, which I firmly believe is unnecessary, irresponsible, and
certainly not germane to this bill," Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said.
"There is little evidence that indicates that violent crimes motivated
by hate go unpunished in the United States. Every single state has come
from laws that prohibit the behavior addressed by hate crimes
legislation, including laws against rape, assault and battery."

Those are states’ rights issues, said Chambliss. "I do not believe
the federal government should interfere with the criminal laws already
on the books in our states," he said.

Only Sens. Dick Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted with Democrats to move the legislation to a final vote, which is expected Thursday night or Friday.

"I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans have decided that
defeating hate crimes legislation takes precedent over supporting our
troops," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.

Protecting contractors from rape charges is another area where the Republicans have shown themselves willing to throw victims to the wolves.  Muskus writes:

Thirty Republicans also touched a nerve in a separate defense bill recently, when they voted against
an amendment that would deny defense contracts to companies that ask
employees, including rape victims, to sign away the right to sue. That
time, they were actually joined in some of their concerns by the
Department of Defense.

The Shepard bill passed the House two weeks ago, 281 to 146 and President Obama has
promised to sign it, a reversal from the policy of the
Bush administration.

News Law and Policy

Louisiana Cops Get Hate Crime Protections as Violence Against Police Plummets

Teddy Wilson

A New Orleans activist said that the "Blue Lives Matter" bill allows law enforcement to hide “behind uniforms and badges” despite having a “long and egregious history” of committing acts of violence against communities of color.

Louisiana legislators this week passed a bill making assault of police officers a hate crime.

Supporters of the measure claim it’s needed because of a growing threat of targeted violence against law enforcement. Data shows that violence against law enforcement has declined to historically low levels, while the killing of civilians by police officers has dramatically risen. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is expected to sign the so-called Blue Lives Matter bill into law. The bill’s name is a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, a collection of grassroots activists around the country who have demanded justice for victims of police violence.

HB 953, sponsored by Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), would amend the state’s hate crime law to include acts of violence against “law enforcement officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.”

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Under the state’s hate crime law, someone can be charged with a hate crime for an act of violence against a person who was targeted because of their “race, age, gender, religion, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry.”

The “Blue Lives Matter” measure would create the first protected class based on a profession, not an immutable identity. A person convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime could face a prison sentence of up to six months and a $500 fine, and anyone convicted of a felony hate crime could face an additional five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Harris that the bill is necessary to protect law enforcement, reported USA Today.

HB 953 was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled state legislature. The bill was passed by the house with a 92-0 vote. It cleared the state senate with a 33-3 vote.

State Sens. Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans), Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), and Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) were the only lawmakers to vote against the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana is not taking a position on the bill. Executive Director Marjorie Esman told Rewire that “at the end of the day,” the bill does not change the scope of current law as it applies to protected classes of people. 

Allison Goodman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s office in Metairie, Louisiana, told the Advocate that the proposal is “not something we could recommend,” and a departure from the traditional intent of hate crime laws.”

“It’s really focused on immutable characteristics,” Goodman said. “Proving the bias intent for a hate crime for law enforcement or first responders is very different than proving it for someone who is Jewish or gay or black.”

Terrel Kent, a former East Baton Rouge parish attorney, told NBC News that the proposal is unnecessary and redundant.  

“As a former prosecutor I know for a fact that battery of a police officer is already covered by other laws here in Louisiana,” Kent said. “To include essential peace officers, sheriffs, law enforcement officials or first responders is a slap in the face to protected classes.”

Harris said during an interview with CNN that the law was needed to protect law enforcement.

“In the news, you see a lot of people terrorizing and threatening police officers on social media just due to the fact that they are policemen. Now, this (new law) protects police and first responders under the hate-crime law,” Harris said.

Harris cited the death of Texas sheriff’s deputy Darren Goforth as one of the reasons he sponsored HB 953. Goforth, a ten-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, was ambushed, shot and killed while in uniform in August 2015.

“It looked like it was strictly done because someone didn’t like police officers, like a hate crime,” Harris said.

Shannon Miles was indicted for capital murder in November 2015, and prosecutors alleged he murdered Goforth for the sole reason that he was a police officer. Miles had reportedly been arrested multiple times and had a long history of mental illness.

As the legal proceedings unfolded, allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officials emerged. It was alleged that officials connected with the investigation had an improper sexual relationship with a witness to the shooting. This led to local activists to call for an apology from law enforcement for connecting the shooting to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Miles was found to be incompetent to stand trial, and will be reevaluated for trial after spending 120 days in a mental health facility.

Harris did not respond to Rewire’s request to comment on this story.

There were 42 police officers killed by firearms nationwide in 2015. The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has steadily decreased over the past three decades. Police deaths by gunfire decreased by 14 percent from 2014-2015 and police officer deaths were at a 50-year low in 2013. 

“The 42 firearms-related deaths of police officers in 2015 are 26 percent lower than the average of 57 per year for the decade spanning 2000-2009,” according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

Eighty-three officers have been killed in the line of duty in Louisiana since 2000, according the NLEOMF. There were eight policers killed in the state in 2015. No Louisiana police officers have been killed in 2016, according to NLEOMF data.

Statistics Raise Questions About “Blue Lives Matter” Law

The number of civilians killed by law enforcement in Louisiana far outnumber the number of police who have been killed in the line of duty.  

At least 1,146 people were killed in the United States by police officers in 2015, according to the Guardian database of police shootings. Police officers have shot and killed 28 people in Louisiana since the start of 2015. Of those 28 people, 14 were Black men, two of whom were unarmed.

Police in Louisiana have shot and killed eight people so far in 2016. 

Fatal Encounters, a project to create a comprehensive national database of people who are killed through interactions with police, has collected data on fatal police shootings in Louisiana.

There have been 438 civilians killed by police since 2000, according to data from Fatal Encounters. Of those killed by police, 143 were Black and 96 were white. There were 188 incidents in which a civilian whose race was unspecified was killed by police.

Harris represents House District 25, a rural district in central Louisiana that includes part of the town of Alexandria. There have been five people killed by law enforcement in Alexandria since 2000, with three of those five people killed since 2014. 

Bobby AndersonChristopher LeBlanc, and John Ashley were all killed by police officers in Alexandria.

Anthony Molette was also killed in February 2003 by police officers in Alexandria after allegedly shooting and killing police officers Jeremy Carruth and David Ezernack.

Aaron Rutledge, a combat medic and a recruiter for the Louisiana National Guard, was shot and killed in April 2015 by a Rapides Parish sheriff’s deputy after local law enforcement responded to a call that Rutledge had threatened someone with a firearm and then threatened himself, reported the Town Talk.

Lawmakers in the state legislature introduced a resolution in April to offer “condolences of the Senate of the Legislature of Louisiana to the family of Louisiana Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Aaron Rutledge upon his death in the service of his country.”

Harris was not among the lawmakers who sponsored the resolution.

“Hiding Behind Uniforms and Badges”

Louisiana has the worst racial disparities in the country, based on indicators related to household income, public school segregation, and health insurance, among others, according to a study by the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans.

These same racial disparities are manifested in the state’s the criminal justice system, according to local activists who have spoken out against HB 953.

Angela Kinlaw, an activists in New Orleans, said in a statement that the state of Louisiana has ensured that the law is used to “manipulate and control citizens” while being exploited by a systemically unjust system.

“In the face of ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, this “Blue Lives Matter” bill is an intentional slap in the face, designed to control, create fear, and through police discretion penalize citizens for situations that often police create or escalate,” Kinlaw said. “We have seen it time and time again.”

Significant racial disparities have been documented in death penalty sentences in Louisiana. Defendants accused of killing white victims are nearly twice as likely to be sentenced to death and nearly four times as likely to be executed than defendants accused of killing Black victims, according to a study published in the Loyola University of New Orleans Journal of Public Interest Law.

Nia Weeks, policy director of the New Orleans-based Women With a Vision, said in a statement that hate crime laws should protect “vulnerable members of our community” when they are the victims of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

“Structurally there is a power differentiation between police officers and those they encounter. When Black women are immersed in the criminal justice system, they enter a place that imparts racist, sexist, and homophobic ideology on them from the beginning,” Weeks said.

The New Orleans Chapter of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) released a statement opposing the bill. Savannah Shange of BYP100 New Orleans said that the bill allows law enforcement to hide “behind uniforms and badges” despite having a “long and egregious history” of committing acts of violence against communities of color.

“We have to stop this malicious trend before it starts—we cannot allow the gains of the civil rights movement to be squandered away by police officers scrambling to avoid criticism from their constituents,” Shange said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated data about police officer deaths over the past 50 years.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Anti-Choice Groups Cheer Trump’s Latest Hire

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice groups began this week to change their mind about Donald Trump, praising the Republican’s latest campaign hire, and a new report showed a rise in anti-Muslim violence amid the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

Anti-choice groups began this week to change their mind about Donald Trump, praising the Republican’s latest campaign hire, and a new report showed a rise in anti-Muslim violence amid the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election.

Anti-Choice Groups Cheer Donald Trump’s New Domestic Policy Hire

Despite spending months questioning Donald Trump’s opposition to abortion rights, anti-choice groups are now singing the presumptive Republican nominee’s praises after he reportedly hired John Mashburn, an anti-choice advocate, as a policy adviser.

“This is an excellent hire, especially for the pro-life movement and our legislative priorities,” wrote Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, in a post for the Pulse. “I have known and respected John Mashburn for many years. He is a smart strategist with deep pro-life roots. … If I were running for president, I would want John Mashburn as a top advisor, too.”

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Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, told the Washington Examiner that Mashburn “is a rock solid pro-lifer” and “[s]omeone we can work with.”

Mashburn has worked for late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), who sponsored the Helms Amendment, ensuring that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

The anti-choice group’s praise for Trump seems to signal new support for the GOP candidate. Officials from Priests for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List told the Washington Times Wednesday that their organizations would back Trump now that many believe he will face Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the general election.

“Hillary Clinton can hardly find an abortion she doesn’t like,” Fr. Frank Pavone, national director for Priests for Life, said in a statement to the Washington Times. “She’s virtually for unrestricted abortion. Here, on the other hand, we have a man in Donald Trump who has said that abortion is wrong. He wants to protect the unborn, and he’s committed in fact to very specific steps.”

Study Finds Increase in Islamophobic Hate Crimes Since 2016 Election Cycle Started

A study conducted by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, which conducts academic research on Islamophobia, found a rise in violence against Muslims in the United States since the start of the 2016 presidential election.

Since the election season began in March 2015, “there have been approximately 180 reported acts or threats of anti-Muslim violence, including: twelve (12) murders; thirty-four (34) physical assaults; forty-nine (49) verbal assaults or threats against persons and institutions; fifty-six (56) acts of vandalisms or destruction of property; nine (9) arsons; and eight (8) shootings or bombings, among other incidents,” according to the report.

Though researchers caution that the rise in violence was not necessarily caused by the election cycle, spikes in anti-Muslim activities rose at the same time Republican presidential candidates’ inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims made news.

In one such example, after Trump called for mosques to be closed in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, and the mass shooting in San Bernardino California in late 2015, “anti-Muslim attacks initially tripled with nearly half of those attacks directed against mosques.”

The report suggested that Republican presidential candidates have contributed to already rising anti-Muslim sentiments throughout the country.

“Before and after terrorist attacks, American Muslims have been consistently and increasingly singled out in a growingly hostile, increasingly violent atmosphere of anti-Muslim sentiment. Irresponsible statements by presidential candidates, especially Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have only contributed to the tension and fear that have spurred violence against a vulnerable American minority group,” the Bridge Initiative concluded. 

“Rather than urge calm and encourage unity in the wake of terrorist attacks—in Paris, San Bernardino and most recently, Brussels—that hurt Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Trump and Cruz have suggested, and stood by, policies to ban Muslims from entering the United States and patrol so-called ‘Muslim neighborhoods,’ respectively.”

What Else We’re Reading

Trump’s defense of his comments about punishing those who have abortions should the procedure be made illegal “is the worst defense anyone has ever given of anything,” according to Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley.

A Colorado-based PAC is asking white men not to run for office. The Can You Not PAC “was started by white men, for white men, asking white men that one important question: ‘Bruh, can you not?’” Feministing reports that the PAC, whose advisory board is “made up of progressive women, LGBTQ folks, and people of color,” will issue endorsements for the upcoming election “with the aim of defeating mediocre white dudes and elevating candidates from marginalized communities.”

More than 2,000 doctors signed onto an editorial and paper published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, supporting Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” health-care proposal.

Trump’s claim that Clinton is playing the “woman’s card” to get ahead in the election led to a massive $2.4 million fundraising haul in three days for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may have dropped out of the presidential election, but that doesn’t mean we can forget about him: ThinkProgress’ Emily Atkin and Alice Ollstein detail ”some of the ways Cruz will likely try to wreak havoc now that he can focus his full attention on the Senate.”

Bloomberg Politics reports that big money groups are pouring millions into ballot initiatives across the country and have already raised more than $125 million for their causesa 74 percent increase from what was raised at this point in the 2014 election cycle.

Simon Moya-Smith explains the casual racism behind Clinton’s use of a phrase about Native Americans that “has nothing but very offensive roots.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R)who notoriously slashed food assistance and came under fire in January for making “racist” remarks—told a town hall Wednesday that if Trump didn’t give him a spot in his administration, the governor would challenge Sen. Angus King (I) for his seat.

Republicans lawmakers in Virginia are planning to file a lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent restoration of voting rights for more than 200,000 people who have served time for a felony.

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