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Adding sexual orientation to hate-crime law fails

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House voted Thursday not to consider a bill to add crimes against people because of their sexual orientation to the state's hate crimes law, despite an emotional plea from the Legislature's first and only openly gay lawmaker.

"I have personally been a victim of hate speech because of who I love," said Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham.

Todd said she often worries that she will be assaulted because she is a lesbian.

"All it will take is a couple of people drinking beer on a Saturday night and deciding they want to 'kill a queer,' "Todd said.

The bill by Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, failed on a procedural vote required to bring legislation up for debate. The vote against bringing the bill up for debate was 45-43.

Most of the opposition came from Republicans, who said the legislation was not needed because it's already a crime to assault or kill someone, regardless of the reason.

"We don't believe in trying to get into the head of a criminal and figure out why he committed a crime," said House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. "It's a crime to target any person, regardless of whether they are gay or straight or have green eyes or blue eyes."

Holmes said the state's current hate crimes law, passed in 1994, includes crimes against people for race, color, religion and national origin, but left out sexual orientation because of a technical mistake.

As he was attempting to define a hate crime, Holmes said, "In the Arab world Muslims hate all Americans."

That irritated the House's only Muslim member, Rep. Yusuf Salaam, D-Selma, who said he doesn't hate anyone and accused Holmes of lumping all Muslims together.

"I know you didn't mean that, but I know you have a quick and very fast tongue," Salaam said.

Holmes apologized and said he was referring to Muslims in Arab countries and not to Salaam or American Muslims.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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