Dear Congressman

Dear Congressman Shimkus:

I recently learned that the House of Representatives passed a bill that would add gender and sexual orientation to the categories covered by the federal hate crimes law, and that the Senate is due to pass similar legislation.  However, President Bush is considering vetoing such legislation.  Even Republicans in Congress tried to kill the bill….and the vote was mainly along party lines.

Now I must ask, what have I done to deserve this kind of treatment?  I am an American citizens (born and raised in your district).  I vote every time an election comes around and pay close attention to the issues and the candidates.  I’ve been known to attend political rallies and have even been to a debate that you were in once at SIUE a few years ago.  I am also gay.  And I feel like my representative (and his party) are out against me just on the one reason.  When did I become the enemy?  Why is it that with all the rest of the stuff going on in our nation and our world that needs more attention, the Republican party seems hell-bent on deeming us second-class citizens?

There is a reason that civil rights groups have wanted sexual orientation added to the hate crime laws.  Its because we are targeted for violence and other heinous crimes by other individuals simply because we are gay…because we are different than they are, and therefore, that makes us bad people.

I bring in a couple of examples.  Brandon Teena, a Nebraska transexual, was raped after two friends discovered he was biologically female and then murdered when local police did not arrest those responsible.  And then there is Matthew Shepard….who was beaten to death by a couple of guys simply because he was gay, and they didn’t approve.  These kind of acts happen to us on a daily basis throughout this nation.  Republican leaders have stated that they want to leave it up to local authorities and the states since most already have these kind of laws on the books.  But what happens when local authorities or the state look the other way?  Shouldn’t somebody be looking over their shoulder to make sure that there is equal and fair treatment for all its citizens?

There was fear that this new addition to the hate crime laws would violate the First Amendment by taking away people’s rights to protest or speak out against homosexuality.  And this bill does nothing of the sort.  It is already illegal to beat someone up or kill someone just because they are African-American.  But the KKK still rallies and protests African-Americans….and though I don’t agree with them, they are within their right to do so, as is any other group.  So frredom of speech isn’t being violated.  What’s being taken away is the opportunity for someone to take action…action that would hold a federal punishment.

The Judiciary Commitee has cited FBI numbers that say there have been more than 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, including 7,163 in 1995 alone.  Racially motivated hate crimes account for 55 percent, religous bias for 17 percent, and sexual orientation and ethnicity for 14 percent.  Those numbers are too high, and they must be brought down.  And this legislation will do it.  It will no longer be a slight slap on the wrist by local authorities…this will be hard time.

Since freedom of speech is not being violated, you are losing your just reason for being against this bill.  It is now imperative to put your partisan politics aside and do what is right for the citizens of your district….for the citizens of your district who are gay, myself included.  I ask that you do the right thing and the moral thing to help protect us.  And I ask, most importantly, that urge President Bush to look past partisan politics to do what is right for the citizens of this nation by signing it into law.  But, if you can’t convince him of that, I ask that you stand up to go over his veto…and to take a stand for something that is right and something that is just.

It was Buddha who said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”    We don’t always have to agree with each other in this nation or even like each other.  But it is imperative that we tolerate one another.  And sometimes we must do what it is right, though it might not always be the most popular decision.  After all, just because it’s popular, doesn’t make it right.

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.  What isn’t a part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”  Herman Hesse~

I thank you for your time, Congressman.  And I hope you do the right thing and take a stand for some of us in your district.




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