September 28, 2007
A curious time to rally round the gays
Posted by: Chris
It's wonderful to see the recent voices from the African-American civil rights movement in favor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which adds "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to existing hate crime laws.
Some of us have been saying for months that a vocal response was needed to counter a campaign by conservative black clergy (and white clergy too) making the spurious claim that the hate crime law would somehow subject preachers to arrest for delivering anti-gay sermons.
In just the last week, we've seen the NAACP take out a full page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen has been targeted by influential local black clergy for his hate crime support. (An enlarged copy of the ad, where the text is readable, is available for viewing on the jump from this post.)
Then Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an influential young African-American professor at Princeton, penned a piece on Huffington Post calling on black Christians to answer the ridiculous claims by conservative black clergy about how the hate crime bill would impinge their religious freedom.
Just yesterday, legendary African-American Professor Cornel West, also of Princetown, wrote an opinion column for the Boston Globe making the same arguments in even more blunt fashion:
The truth is that the Matthew Shepard Act protects all First Amendment rights. And, although that is a given, this bill goes out of its way to protect the free speech of ministers. Those pastors who wish to continue condemning and dehumanizing the gay community will be free to do so.
Well said, though I can't help but notice the curious timing for this groundswell of vocal support for the hate crimes bill. Two factors could explain the trend.
The more neutral would be that the bill was up for a vote this week in the U.S. Senate. Of course, the prospect that it would come up for a Senate vote has been around since at least July. The other is the decision by the Human Rights Campaign, the bill's strongest backer, to take its own vocal stance last week at the controversial Jena 6 rallies in Washington, D.C., and Jena, La.
I'd like to believe the timing is because of the Senate vote this week, but I can't help but wonder… What do you think? Was this scratch-your-back politics at work?
For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes
(An enlarged version of the NAACP follows in the jump)
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