Congressional Democrats have dropped their effort to tie a Pentagon policy measure to an expanded definition of federal hate crimes covering sexual orientation, reports the New York Times. That ended chances that the long-stalled hate crime measure would pass Congress this year. Citing objections from Republicans and President Bush, as well as a refusal by some Democrats to back the Pentagon bill because of opposition to the Iraq war, Democratic leaders agreed to strip out the hate crimes provision to clear the way for approval of the military legislation.
The outcome disappointed congressional advocates of the hate crimes expansion and to civil rights activists who believed that the Democrat-led Congress provided the best opportunity for approving changes sought since 1998. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said the measure had fallen victim to a “perverse form of bipartisanship” that scuttled “what would have been the most significant gain in federal protections against hate crimes in nearly two decades.” The measure was proposed after the murder in 1998 of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man beaten to death in Laramie, Wy.