Protecting LGBT People from Lynching? Apparently That’s a Step too Far.

The recognized hate group the Liberty Counsel is lobbying members of Congress to remove LGBTQ people from a long awaited anti-lynching reform bill. Why?

The legislation, known as the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, has been a long time in coming. There have been more than 200 bills over the years aimed at addressing the issue of lynching, a crime most infamous for its association with racism.

Each time such legislation was introduced (under various names) Congress has voted the bills down.

However, all that changed in December of 2018 when lawmakers in the US Senate voted unanimously to back the bill. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the legislation, which highlights the racism that underpins the crime of lynching. The bill calls lynching “the ultimate expression of racism” that followed the Reconstruction.

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act seeks to recognize lynching as a “deprivation of civil rights” and designates lynching and attempted lynching, for the first time, as a federal hate crime. This is largely symbolic, as lynching would fall under established hate crimes legislation.

It’s significance, however, sits in how it recognizes and honors the righteous anger in the Black community for both the history of slavery in the US and the many violent crimes and discrimination targeting people of color to this day. Regardless, it means that judges can use enhanced penalties during sentencing as a means of recognizing the extreme and dangerous bias that has motivated these crimes.

Given that the US has already created hate crime classifications and uses enhanced penalties both at the state and federal level, this may sound entirely reasonable and non-controversial.

However, in an interview last week the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver said that his group was lobbying Congress against the legislation. More specifically, it doesn’t like that it includes LGBT people as a protected class.

Staver said in an interview, “The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in.”

Staver added, ”And this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.”

He reportedly then clarified that he is supportive of anti-lynching legislation in general. Rather, it is the LGBT inclusive language with which his hate group takes issue. “So far they’ve [LGBT groups] been unsuccessful over the many years in the past,” he said. “But this is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the [jugular] at some time in the future.”

The clause to which Staver refers reads: “If 2 or more persons, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully cause bodily injury to any other person because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person…” then this scope for heightened penalty may be invoked.

Staver claims that LGBT people have not been successful in seeking federal recognition for protected status, and to an extent he is correct. There is one area that Staver has overlooked however, and it is the very area to which this bill speaks directly: hate crimes.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which Congress passed and President Obama signed into law in 2009, enumerates a number of protected classes, among them “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.

There are other areas in which these classes do appear, not in statute but rather in federal policy, largely thanks to the Obama administration. However, it is absolutely and unequivocally clear that including these protected classes is entirely germane to any legislation dealing with hate crimes statutes.

Staver, as the head of a legal group, has either overlooked this or is willfully ignoring it in an attempt to bully Congress into nixing those protections.

The Liberty Counsel seeks to devalue LGBT lives in the pursuit of its Evangelical ideology. That it would attack such historically meaningful legislation as the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, and thereby endanger the entire legislation, is doubly shameful.

Were this all hot air, however, it would not matter much. Under the Obama administration, even the Republican-dominated Congress had a hard time using such naked and mean-spirited attacks against LGBT people, though they did try and try again.

However, while Congress is set to be more open to LGBT-inclusive legislation, thanks to the Democratic majority in the House, one big problem remains: President Trump.

Trump has previously snipped away protections for LGBT people in trade bills and has actively gone after trans people by seeking to roll back trans inclusion in the military. The administration is also cooking up yet more ways to erase trans people from existence.

There is a real danger here that, if the House does pass this legislation, Staver and his cohorts will find willing ears in the Trump administration and the bill will be stonewalled. If that happens, it would be a disservice to every single person who has suffered this terrible death, whether because of their race, their gender or gender identity, their physical ability or their sexuality.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

49 comments

Kayla C
Kayla Cote6 days ago

Oh my gosh, what is wrong with people?! I mean, fine I guess if you don't agree with it, but supporting the murder of people for doing something you don't agree with is just evil!

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silja s
silja s7 days ago

WHAT ... there is a bill being presented . a " anit lynching bill " . what is wrong with america. lynching is criminal is disgusting is abhorrent what is all this just and good is wrong with ameria.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H8 days ago

thanks

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Joan E
Joan E13 days ago

These sickening people call themselves "Liberty Counsel" but don't give a damn if someone like Matthew Shepard's life is ended by some evil idiot because he was born gay.

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Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley23 days ago

Thank you.

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pam w
pam w24 days ago

So very CHRISTIAN of them!

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Irene S
Irene S25 days ago

Disgusting!

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S M
S M27 days ago

To visit America these days must be like going back in time, - reopening of polluting coal mines, women’s rights on contraception and abortion eroded, paranoia about LBGTQ, government workers can be not paid because politicians squabble and a shutdown, ......While at the same time America continues to rob countries around the world of their oil and minerals by violent or deceitful means.

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Roberta G
Roberta G28 days ago

So the hate group Liberty Council thinks it is perfectly ok to kill LGBT people. Sick. The Senate passed the bill giving ALL groups protection from lynching. If the bill passes the House, it will be interesting to see what trump's reaction will be.

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Lesa D
Lesa DiIorio28 days ago

thank you Steve...

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