Friday, July 17, 2009

Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill As Amendment To Defense Authorization Act

On Thursday night, the U.S. Senate agreed to add the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. First by a vote of 78-13, the Senate agreed to an amendment clarifying that the hate crime provisions should not be construed or applied to infringe on First Amendment rights. Then the Senate voted 63-28 to invoke cloture on the hate crimes bill. Voice vote passage immediately followed. (AP). (See prior related posting.)

UPDATE: Here is the text of the amendment, offered by Sen. Brownback and adopted by the Senate, intended to protect First Amendment rights:
Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes on any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, or substantially burdens any exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, association, if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to--
(1) plan or prepare for an act of physical violence; or
(2) incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.
Section 10 of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act also contains other provisions on construction of the Act and free expression.