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LEGISLATION

Hate crimes bill faces hazy future

Without discussion and by a simple voice vote, the Senate in late July approved legislation that would expand federal hate-crimes law to cover attacks motivated by the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability. But one of the bill's primary backers said its future is tenuous at best. The measure passed the Senate as an amendment to a spending bill that funds the Justice Department and other federal agencies, but House rules make it virtually impossible for such unrelated amendments to survive.

"The Senate has a technique of accepting a lot of amendments on the floor but having them slip off the tray when they go through the rotunda to a conference" with the House, said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who coauthored the hate-crimes bill with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). "I wouldn't say that's what's going to happen, but it wouldn't surprise me."--Bill Ghent

CONGRESS

Religious liberty could slight gays

The bottom line is that a bill that passed the House last month, which is designed to safeguard religious expression, could actually trump antidiscrimination protections for gay men and lesbians. But, the bill's main sponsor, Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.), isn't quick to describe it that way. "I believe there are contexts in which this bill could result in a claimant who is defending against the application of a local gay rights ordinance to raise a claim that would be successful because compliance with that ordinance was a violation of the free exercise of religion," Canady told C-SPAN's Washington Journal July 17.

Gay rights groups have long feared that the bill, called the Religious Liberty Protection Act, could override civil rights ordinances if courts rule that they place a "substantial burden" on people's religions beliefs. For example, it's plausible that a gay person could be denied a job or a home based on an employer's or landlord's religious beliefs.

"It is clear that the bill's sponsor acknowledges that [this bill] creates a huge loophole where people can use religion to justify discrimination," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign. The bill now heads to the Senate.--B. G.

AIDS

Anything for an audit

What looks like a letter from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, includes her signature, and is mailed out on her letterhead? In the case of a July 23 missive, a hoax. In an apparent attempt to tweak the California Democrat for not supporting a conservative-backed federal audit of AIDS groups, someone created a "Dear Colleague" letter in which Pelosi announces her support for just such an audit to determine how AIDS moneys are spent, citing the "misappropriation of federal money" in the delivery of AIDS services. Less than two weeks earlier, Pelosi and seven other members of Congress had called for an audit to show instead how important AIDS programs are. Pelosi forwarded the fraudulent letter to authorities to investigate. The hoax is the second of its kind for the Bay Area, which Pelosi represents. In April someone mailed a letter purporting to be from San Francisco AIDS Foundation head Pat Christen in which she announced she was taking a salary cut in response to activists' complaints about her compensation.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Legislation in Congress
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 31, 1999
Words:530
Previous Article:Transitions.
Next Article:Digital Queeries.
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