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05/10/2007

Lafferty frownerties at Hoyer's historical comparisons

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 8-39In a "Special Legislative Briefing" sent out by the Traditional Values Coaltion's Andrea Lafferty, Ms. L. contains this little tidbit regarding last week's HR 1592 debate:

During the debate over passage of H.R. 1592, House Democrat Steny Hoyer (MD) compared opposition to homosexuality and cross-dressing as equal to opposition to slavery during the 19th century! He actually compared religious opposition to these behaviors as “faith-based” bigotry!

But as folks who value transparency and who prefer to provide our readers with more than just the soundbites most advantageous to our cause, we would like to now present you with Steny Hoyer's full HR. 1592 speech (from the official transcript). We think you're big enough to decide for yourself whether Rep. Hoyer was making unfair comparisons or simply stating the facts:

Mr. HOYER: Mr. Speaker, this will be one of the serious votes that we cast during this session. This will be a vote on whether or not we are going to allow bigotry to manifest itself in hate and result in violence.

My friend, Artur Davis, rose and he said he didn't know anybody of faith who recommended violence. I would suggest that tragically the citizens of the United States know all too well some who claim to be men of faith and who have issued fatwas to kill those not of their faith, and that if they do so, Allah will reward them. We call them terrorists. They kill not because of individual wrongdoing or individual action. They kill because of the membership in a faith or a race or a nationality, because perhaps we are Christian or we are Jews or we are Americans. And we call them terrorists.

This is an important vote. Neither the exercise of bigotry nor the rationalization of bigotry ought to be sanctioned in this great House, but we know through the centuries it has been. We know there were those who in times past rose on this floor and rationalized slavery and rationalized why we should not have antilynching laws in America. We know that. We lament it, and we say to ourselves had we lived in those times, had we lived in the 18th century, hopefully we would have been beyond our time, or in the 19th century hopefully beyond our time, or in the 20th century hopefully beyond our time, as Martin Luther King, Jr., urged us to be.

We serve now in the 21st century, and we know that there are those in America and throughout the world who preach hate against a class of people not because of their actions, not because of their character, but because of who they are. That is what this vote is about today.

Through this legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Members of this body will make a strong statement in favor of values that unite us as Americans: tolerance, respect for our differences, and justice and accountability for those who perpetrate violent acts against others.

It has been too recent that lynching was rationalized in our country. It is too present in today's society that some across the sea and, yes, some here rationalize violence because of membership in another class different than they. It is long past time to bring the existing Federal hate crimes law, which was enacted nearly 40 years ago, into the 21st century. Under existing law, Federal jurisdiction over hate crimes is limited to those acts directed at individuals on the basis of race, religion, color, or national origin.

Let me say something about that to my friends. We have come to accept in America in the 21st century that it is not respectable nor acceptable to be bigoted against those who are black, be bigoted against those who are women, be bigoted against those who are Catholic or Baptist or Jews or Muslims. It is not respectable. It is not acceptable. You don't talk about that in the restaurant anymore.

But there is a class in America that is still respectable, rationalized many times by faith. But then segregation was rationalized for faith-based reasons.

My friends, this is an important vote of conscience, of a statement of what America is, a society that understands that we accept differences. We may not agree with those differences, but we know if society is to be free that we must accept differences.

That is the bedrock of what America means, not just to us, but to all the world.

And so today, my friends, I say we have an important statement to make, not a bill to pass, but a statement to make about the values of our country.

I had a prepared statement here, I won't read the balance of it. But I hope that every Member has the courage and the perspective, that when they rise from their bed 20 years from now, they will be able to say, unlike some of our predecessors in centuries past who failed the test of tolerance, to say that we had the courage to live out the principles that makes America such a wonderful, great, decent and just Nation.

Vote for this bill. Vote for our principles. Vote for your faith that teaches that we reach out to lift up and to love. Vote for this bill.

So there you have it. And we're not even saying Ms. Lafferty is making crazy-ass leaps in logic in her above quoted statements. It's just that Mr. Hoyer is not saying anything other than THE TRUTH! Religion has undeniably been used to justify past injustices. In his opinion, gay bias is a 21st injustice. And also in his opinion, religious-based reasons should not be an acceptable justification for bias. Even though Ms. Lafferty surely disagrees with that assessment -- she can't deny that faith has been used throughout the decades to give grounds for various forms of discrimination. Or actually she CAN and likely WILL deny it. But just like with her sweeping antipathy for gay folks, she will be wrong.

We're not here to play a game of "Which bias is more unjust?" However, we will gladly go head to head with Ms. Lafferty regarding the right of citizens in a non-therocratic nation to foist their religious views on the realm of governance (while maintaining our respect for religion itself). Mr. Hoyer deserves nothing but praise for speaking out against those who have tried to discriminate in the past, and those who are doing the same in the present. Religious freedom does not trump all other freedoms!

A Special Legislative Briefing From TVC’s Executive Director Andrea Lafferty [TVC]

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