Basic Rights Oregon's Thomas Wheatley was ecstatic when he answered the phone. "We’re elated — this is a tremendous victory!" he said. In response to criticisms of the law creating "thought crimes" rather than combating the actual problems that lead to hate, Wheatley responded that the new legislation is necessary and important because it gives $5 million in federal grants annually to state and local governments to fund prosecution of hate crimes. It also gives federal money to fund local programs to combat juvenile hate crimes committed.
"You think about the hate crime that happened five years in Hillsboro that's still unsolved. In this case, the Sherriff's office might be able to access resources from the federal government that could help them solve the case," says Wheatley.
No one's really talking about a small section of the bill mentioned briefly by the AP: "The bill also creates a federal crime to penalize attacks against U.S. service members on account of their service." So maybe that's how legislators got so many red state politicians on board?
Of course, not everyone is celebrating. From the Catholic News Agency: "The advance of a bill that would create penalties to punish “hate crimes” comes at a time of increasing intolerance towards those who support the traditional definition of marriage and reject homosexual activism, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins noted on Wednesday, causing him to ask, 'Where's the protection for them?'"