Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill into Law

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President Obama signed a controversial hate crimes bill into law, Wednesday, followed by a special White House evening reception for gay activists.
    
Opponents say the new law-- which is meant to protect homosexual and transgendered individuals from violent crimes-- would have never made it through Congress without being attached to an unrelated defense bill.
    
Many are afraid the legislation will threaten freedom of religion and speech.
 
Obama also approved an amendment that adds sexual orientation to the already Federally protected classes of race, religion and national origin.

CBN News spoke with Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center about the implications of extending hate crimes protection specifically to homosexuals.  Click play for his comments.

Also, click here for more on the hate crimes law with Republican lawmaker Mike Pence, who says the change does nothing but infringe on freedom of religion.

"After more than a decade of opposition and delay we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are," President Obama said.

However, many Christians are troubled by the chilling affect the new law could have on religious speech.

"Under this hate crimes provision, you can have an 80-year-old woman who is mugged by a thug or a seven-year-old girl who is the target of a sexual predator, and they receive less protection under the law than two men who sleep together in a bed," Tony Perkins of Family Research Council said. "Something is wrong with that."

Pastor of Grace and Truth Bible Church in Lanham, Md., Matt Anderson, said the church cannot lose its voice. 

"We're concerned about making sure that their personal rights for safety is protected or are protected," Anderson said. "But at the same time we need to make sure that the church is not silenced and that the voice of the Lord through the Biblical mandate is not silenced as well."

In countries with similar laws Christian pastors have been prosecuted for preaching biblically held beliefs against homosexuality.
    
But supporters of the legislation say Christian fears are without merit.  

"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," Brian Moulton, senior council of the Human Rights Campaign, said.

Derrick Harkins, pastor of 19th Street Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said everyone deserves to be safe.

"My perspective around the issue of sexual orientation is far different than many of the people who have supported this legislation," he said. "But I still can stand alongside them and say that I think it is important for everyone to have the right to not be harmed because of hate."

The approval of the Hate Crimes Bill will likely put the president back into the good graces of many in the gay community who were beginning to think he was dragging his feet on their issues.

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Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.