Hate Crimes Bill Crammed into Defense Budget

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WASHINGTON -- An important defense bill passed the House Thursday, but nearly 150 lawmakers voted against it.

That's because the legislation designed to equip and train America's troops also includes an amendment that gives special federal protections to homosexuals.

"I sadly urge my colleagues to vote against the (Department of Defense) bill," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said on the House floor.

That's because supporters added the hate crimes bill to the defense package.

The hate crimes bill adds homosexuals and transgendered Americans to the list of already protected classes of race, religion and national origin.

Supporters say the bill is necessary.

"Between 1998 and 2007, more than 77,000 hate crime incidents were reported, and the trend is up for hate crimes based on sexual orientation," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at a news conference.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, says Christians denounce violence against anyone, but argues there are already laws on the books to deal with such crimes that are, in many cases, tougher.

And he says, Congress shouldn't attach language to a defense bill that weakens constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of religion, including the freedom to preach on sexual morality.

"We're gonna take away the freedoms of people of faith to stand up and read Romans I in public. Because if you read Romans I 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," Gohmert said.

Some late changes were made to the bill to strengthen protections for religious speech, but not everyone believes they're enough.

The full Senate could vote on it as soon as next week. President Barack Obama has said he will sign it into law.

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