CAPITOL HILL -- In a vote of 15 to 12, the House Judiciary Committee Thursday advanced hate crimes legislation.
It adds gay, lesbian, and transgender people to the list of federally protected classes. But critics warn it could also criminalize preachers, who preach against homosexuality.
Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Washingon Correspondent Jennifer Wishon.
Folks who oppose hate crimes legislation are now working on different strategies to make the bill easier to swallow.
NRB Working With Lawmakers to Add Protections For Ministers
Groups like the National Religious Broadcasters have been working for months to amend the legislation. They are working with lawmakers to add protections for pastors who preach against homosexual lifestyles.
Although many Christians feel confident they would beat any potential charges under the First Amendment, court challenges would be costly, time consuming and many believe they would have a chilling effect on the pulpit.
"Just passing the legislation is going to result in pastors saying, 'I'm not going to address this issue,'" explained the American Center for Law and Justice's Jay Sekulow.
On Thursday's broadcast of CBN's The 700 Club, Sekulow said current law already addresses violent crimes against all people. But loved ones of those who have been targeted because of their sexuality, say it's time for greater protections.
"It is essential that we make our nation's civil rights laws just and equal for every individual," said Nancy Ratzan, president of the National Council of Jewish Women. "It is long past time for Congress to make clear that crimes of hate and prejudice will not be tolerated in America."
House majority leader Steny Hoyer D-MD says the bill will be considered by the full House next week.