Matthew Shepard Act | What’s to Hate, Mr. Sessions? (Pt. 2)

Monday, March 25th, 2013 By

But Jeff Sessions has problems with this

(Photo: kiiitv.com)

(CLICK HERE if you missed the beginning of this article)

Michelle Garcia reports (See: http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid99652.asp) for Advocate.com that Sen. Sessions has attempted to attach three amendments to the Matthew Shepard Act that effectively “limit the extension of the federal hate-crimes law” that the Senate has passed. He even took it upon himself to speak on why current hate crime laws shouldn’t include safeguards for gender identity and sexual orientation. Sessions is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. The Matthew Shepard Act has passed Congress, but Sessions’ amendments are attached so that President Obama will see them when he decides whether or not to give the bill his signature.

According to Joe Openshaw, an Examiner.com Birmingham Gay Community reporter, “these amendments are unnecessary and are designed to diminish support for the bill.”

What are Sessions’ arguments?

His first amendment opens the floodgates for the death penalty to be applied as punishment for hate crimes in some instances. This hot button could be a huge problem that prevents the Matthew Shepard Act bill’s approval in its current form. Openshaw recognizes the irony of the fact that “the very Senators who have falsely argued that this bill would put clergy in jail because of their beliefs think that those same clergy should be subject to the death penalty.” It comes across as an intentional deal-breaker, thanks to a group of Republican senators which Sessions represents.

Next, make unnecessary changes

Sen. Sessions also wants the Justice Department to change their own procedural guidelines for handling hate crimes. In this case, it may be a case of don’t fix what isn’t broken. Openshaw believes that the guidelines already in place are “well-established, clear and precise” when it comes to how to deal with violent hate crimes.

Finally, be vague and hope for loopholes

Session’s final amendment appears to be designed to muddy the waters by tugging at the heart strings of the country by invoking the possibility of crimes against military members and their families. In particular, Sessions wants there to be added penalties on top of already augmented penalties in place. This comes across as grandstanding, but what Openshaw considers “vague wording” could be a red flag when the president reviews the proposed legislation. What does it mean when Sessions asks for “additional penalties for injuring the property of a serviceman or immediate family member?” How is “family member” being defined, and what exactly does “injury to their property” mean? Sessions is a political veteran, so he likely knows that loopholes this kind of language could create.

What do you really think about the Matthew Shepard Act, Mr. Sessions?

“We need to be careful that statutes that become permanent parts of our criminal code are supported by evidence and principle,” Sessions said. “I don’t think that our focus here is to deal with symbolic legislation that’s broad and could expand federal criminal jurisdiction beyond its historic role and where the facts do not support the need.”

Seems to me the principles are as clear as day. As for evidence, it also exists. There’s nothing symbolic about protecting Americans against hate crimes. There is a need to end senseless hate. The only broad thing here is the sense of your arguments in the matter. Specifically, they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. If you need lessons in being a decent senator, there are unsecured loans and pay day loans that can fund your trip back to school for sensitivity training.

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