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Rep. Boehner On Hate Crimes: Religion Is "Immutable," Homosexuality Is Not

October 13, 2009 3:31 pm ET by Matt Finkelstein

Last week, the House of Representative passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will "expand the definition of violent federal hate crimes to those committed because of a victim's sexual orientation."

Predictably, many conservatives were outraged at the bill's passage.  In a statement, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) decried it as "thought crimes" legislation that "places a higher value on some lives than others." He added, "Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance."

Boehner's statement clearly implied that all hate crimes laws are inherently wrong.  However, the Political Hotsheet contacted Boehner's office and learned that Boehner actually supports existing protections for ethnic, religious, and other minorities.  Here's how a spokesman accounted for the contradiction:

Based on that statement, contacted Boehner's office to find out if the minority leader opposes all hate crimes legislation. The law as it now stands offers protections based on race, color, religion and national origin.

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics."

The top House Republican apparently believes that a person's religion is "immutable," but sexual orientation is not. 

As Northeastern University professor Jack Levin commented, Boehner's stance "doesn't make any sense at all." Levin added, "Religion is clearly not ascribed. It's not built into the organism. People can change it at any time and people do."

"It sounds to me as though the criticism is focused on the addition of gays and lesbians to the list of protected categories at the federal level," Levin said. "That seems to be the problem."

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