after the gay man was brutally left to die in October 1998
Remember the movie Sophie's Choice that won Meryl Streep her Best Actress Oscar? What the LGBT community is facing today is what I call "Matthew's Choice."
The federal hate crimes bill, which would include the possibility of penalty enhancements for crimes motivated by the sexual orientation, gender identity or mental/physical disability of the victim. If enacted, the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.909 / H.R. 1913) would become the first substantive piece of federal legislation to increase civil rights for members of the LGBT community.
However, the legislative history of the bill is so convoluted that in order for it to become law, the Department of Defense Authorization bill, which happens to include funding for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, will also need to become law.
So, if you are against the wars but in favor of LGBT people finally receiving recognition under federal law, you have the awful choice of having to choose between your anti-war principles and your pro-equality principles, i.e. similar horrific choice with no good answer to what Meryl Streep's character had to face in Sophie's Choice. I call this dilemma Matthew's Choice.
There has been quite an intense debate going on among LGBT activists about what position to take on this question of supporting a bill which includes both the Department of Defense Authorization and the federal hate crimes act simultaneously.
For me, if the bill still included a death penalty provision I would NOT be in support of it. However, although I do not support the DOD Authorization I think it is more important to set the precedent that meaningful federal legislation can be passed that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
So, I called my Congressperson Xavier Becerra (CA-31) this afternoon and encouraged him to vote in favor of the conference report on the Department of Defense Authorization bill.
I encourage YOU to call your Congressperson as well. Find the name of your Representative here and MAKE THAT CALL!