Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ministers Sue Over Hate Crimes Law

Gary Glenn, photo courtesy of mlive.com

In 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The act effectively expanded the 1969 U.S. hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Following the passage of the law, three Michigan ministers led by Gary Glenn of the Michigan American Family Association challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing that it violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Noting that the law does not, in fact, proscribe speech but rather "prohibits only violent conduct", U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In 2010, a federal judge agreed with Holder and dismissed the suit, writing that "it is entirely speculative that Plaintiff's conduct would be prosecuted under the Act" and that the plaintiff's claim must be more than just a "generalized grievance." Now, in a new twist, a three judge panel for the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has decided to take up the ministers' claim, with oral arguments set for this Wednesday.

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