The White House today threatened to veto a bill in Congress that would expand federal hate crime law to include attacks motivated by the victims’ gender or sexual orientation, the Associated Press reports. The legislation, which also would increase the penalties for bias-based violence, has met outspoken resistance from conservative groups and their Republican allies, who warn that it undermines freedom of speech, religious expression and equal protection under the law. The White House said state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the crimes covered by the bill and “there has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement.”
The House bill, expected to pass today, would extend the hate crimes category to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. FBI data indicate that there have been more than 113,000 reported hate crimes since 1991, including 7,163 in 1995. It said that racially motivated bias accounted for 55 percent of those incidents, religious bias for 17 percent, sexual orientation bias for 14 percent, and ethnicity bias for 14 percent.