WASHINGTON -- Homosexuality will soon be added to the protected classes of religion and race.
Congress has approved legislation that adds sexual orientation to hate crimes laws. And that could have implications for Christians who teach against homosexuality.
The American Center for Law & Justice's Jay Sekulow joined Gordon Robertson on Friday's "The 700 Club" to discuss the ramifications of the new law. Click play to watch the interview.
Gay, lesbian and trans-gendered crime victims will soon have greater protections under federal law. The expansion of the controversial hate crimes law was attached to the Defense Authorization Act.
At the urging of Republicans, it was amended to add protections for religious leaders who preach their biblically-held beliefs against homosexuality.
But some lawmakers say with or without protections, the law will only serve to muffle religious speech that is protected by the Constitution.
"We're going to take away the freedoms of people of faith to stand up and read Romans 1 in public. Because if you read Romans 1 in public and you get to verse 25 and some nut hears that and goes out and commits an act of violence, you can be arrested because you induced him," Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, is celebrating the bill as the nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for gays.
"It's been more than crystal clear throughout this process that there is not effort to control people's thoughts and beliefs or to restrict the ability of religious people to say what they want about homosexuals," said Brian Moulton, senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign.
But opponents point to other countries with similar laws. Swedish pastor Ake Green knows first-hand what can happen.
"What I said was that sexual abnormality was like cancer of the society," Green said.
Green was sentenced to one month in jail under Sweden's hate speech law.
Outside of infringing on religious speech, opponents also argue adding sexual orientation to hate crimes laws will do nothing to prevent violence against gays, and that current law already protects all crime victims.
"It suggests that violence committed against certain kinds of victims is worst ... more in need of intervention and swift justice," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.
At a recent speech to members of the NAACP, Obama compared discrimination against gays to that of black women facing pay discrimination at work.