Topeka Kansas’ U.S. senators and two Kansas House members seeking a Senate seat dislike hate crimes legislation so much that they voted against a bill funding the military for the next year.
U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts last week said they voted against the $680 billion defense bill because it included the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
The act expands hate crimes to include attacks based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The measure, approved 68-29 in the Senate, had won approval in the House earlier this month, so it awaits President Barack Obama’s signature before becoming law.
Supporters hailed its passage as needed to deter crimes against gays, but both Roberts and Brownback, who is running for governor, criticized the measure.
“The defense bill should have been about supporting our troops in a bipartisan way instead of sneaking in a controversial provision and dividing the Senate unnecessarily,” Brownback said. “There are serious concerns about the judicial impact of federalizing hate crimes language that could be construed as too broad and are currently handled at the state and local level,” he added.
Roberts said: “The Democrats hijacked the defense bill, attaching unrelated judiciary committee provisions that they wanted to hide from public debate.”
Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Tiahrt of Goddard and Jerry Moran of Hays, who face each other for the Republican nomination to replace Brownback, voted against the bill too.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., whose district includes west Lawrence, voted for the defense spending bill but said she opposed the hate crimes portion.