Sen. Kennedy, D-La La Land

Byron York:

What is the critical issue in our wartime debate over defense reauthorization?

You might think it’s how many U.S. troops should remain in Iraq in the coming year.

Or how much we spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Or what rest, training and equipment our forces will be given.

Of course, those things are important. But the critical issue? Well, anyone who’s listened to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) would know the answer: It’s whether we should include the phrase “gender identity” in the definition of protected classes under our hate-crime laws.


While most senators were concentrating on defense issues during the defense reauthorization debate, Kennedy was busy trying to turn the fight over the authorization bill into a fight over something entirely different: a hate-crimes bill.

With the assistance of co-sponsor Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Kennedy attached to the defense bill an amendment he called the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.
The amendment would increase the federal government’s powers to intervene in cases of alleged hate crimes, and it would broaden the definition of those crimes.

For example, it would protect alleged victims on the basis of “gender identity,” in addition to simply gender, and it would cover something Kennedy calls “perceived” gender identity.

The meaning of that is not clear, at least not to all the senators considering the amendment.

“Note that the amendment’s use of the term ‘perceived’ makes it difficult to say that there is any ‘class’ of individuals protected here,” says one Republican analysis circulating around. “Perhaps anybody could be a ‘hate crime’ victim, depending on what a fact-finder concludes the accuser ‘perceived’ at the time.

“Senators will have to vote without any real examination of what this new language means, how broadly it could be applied, and how the term ‘perceived’ will be interpreted in practice.”

Those are tricky questions, but here’s a bigger one: What does any of this have to do with the defense reauthorization bill?

“This amendment will strengthen the Defense Authorization Act by protecting those who volunteer to serve in the military,” Kennedy said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

How, exactly? Because our military men and women commit hate crimes, Kennedy explained, and this would protect others from them.

Hate crime bills have always been about emotions and not facts. They make liberals feel good. In practical effect they are ridiculous. During the 2000 campaign President Bush was attacked for opposing hate crime bills after the dragging death of a black man. That the two most responsible for the death were given the death penalty under existing law appeared to be of little consequence to the proponents of the nonsense, but none was able to explain how a hate crime bill would enhance their sentence or more importantly cause them to pause before effecting their crime.


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