With Congress set to pass strengthened hate crime legislation this summer, Conservative Christian leaders are ratcheting up their opposition to a bill that would extend those protections to gays and lesbians, USA Today reports. Conservative leaders say they’re worried that clergy who preach against homosexuality could end up liable for inciting hate crimes, and have called for the repeal of all hate-crime laws as “extraneous and obsolete.”
But supporters of the Matthew Sheppard Act disagree with the argument, voiced by another conservative leader, that “all violent crime is hate crime" and should therefore be treated equally. "If you burn a cross on someone's lawn, or put a swastika on a synagogue, the intent is not just vandalism," counters a policy advocate with a gay rights group. "It's to send a message to intimidate the community."