Today on Politico, Matthew Shepard's mom, Judy, has written an eloquent and heartbreaking op-ed piece about a piece of federal hate-crimes legislation that President Bush has already vowed to veto.
On Thursday, Congress is considering a bill that would expand federal aid to law enforcement officials investigating hate crimes that result in serious physical harm and death.
The Senate version of the legislation carries Matthew's name.
Congressional offices all across Washington are being flooded with phone calls opposing the legislation because political organizations on the ultra-right have been lying to their members, and telling them that this legislation would punish religious people for anti-gay speech -- dubbing this a "thought crimes bill."
One group spreading misinformation to its membership -- the so-called Traditional Values Coalition -- has even gone so far as to put a picture of Jesus on a "wanted" poster, implying that religious people who speak out against homosexuality could become the targets of criminal investigations.
Obviously, that's just not true.
The people spreading this type of propaganda are blatantly lying to their members out of fear that the federal government might finally legislatively recognize that gay Americans exist, and need the same rights and protections the rest of us take for granted.
Even worse, the Traditional Values Coalition is misleading and manipulating its members to make these phone calls to Congress, even when they know in their hearts that they are spreading lies.
This type of behavior has nothing to do with real traditional values.
It's not even so much that Bush might veto a hate-crimes bill; honestly, I'm sort of ambivalent about hate crimes carrying harsher penalties than "regualar" crimes, but I need to do more research. What I find so upsetting are the lies and "gay panic" that the conservatives are engaging in, because God forbid, as Mrs. Shepard said, gay people should be treated like everybody else and expect the same rights. This is America, people, not fucking Iran!
In somewhat happier news, all Democrats, one Independent, and two Republicans in the Oregon legislature passed a "domestic partnership" bill that affords gay couples every legal recognition of marriage in that state without actually calling it marriage. Good enough for me. In some ways, I kind of like the idea of doing that better than calling it "gay marriage." The word "marriage" has so many religious connotations, and if the right-wing whackos won't let us call it that, then fine, we'll do it and just call it something else. I don't want to be in their club anyway. What makes it even cooler is that almost 3 years ago, the people of Oregon voted to ban gay marriage in that state by a very narrow margin, but a margin nonetheless. It's nice to see some politicians actually standing up for what's right.
Sen. Frank Morse, R-Corvallis, who supported the bill, said Oregon must find a way to treat all citizens with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation.
"Our task today is to find how big is Oregon's heart," Morse said.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, same-sex couples will be able to go to their county courthouse and enter into a legally binding contract that grants them rights and responsibilities. The benefits include nearly all those accorded to married couples under state law, covering the rights to jointly file state taxes, child custody, hospital visitation and inheritance rights, among others.