WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill on Wednesday to allow federal prosecution of more "hate” crimes. All five of Oklahoma’s House members opposed it.
The bill, supported by President Barack Obama, was approved 249-175 and now goes to the Senate. It would give the U.S. Justice Department authority to help local law enforcement agencies investigate crimes motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability. The Justice Department could also prosecute the crimes.
Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said the legislation "circumvents the legal system we have in place and elevates some citizens above others on the basis of race, gender and sexuality.
"In addition to violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution, this bill threatens the freedom of speech and religious liberties of people whose opinions are considered ‘hateful’ by one group or another.”
Supporters said the bill will prevent people from being terrorized.
"It was more than 10 years ago that Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. The time for debate is long over,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
But Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, called the bill "just one more example of Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team forcing their liberal agenda on the American people.”
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