Washington, D.C. -
The Republican leadership late Thursday killed amendments to federal hate crime laws that would have protected gays and lesbians.
The amendments were contained in a massive defense department bill as add ons. They were stripped out during conference, the procedure where different versions of bills in the House and Senate are "rationalized" for a final vote.
The measure passed the Senate in June as part of the $422 billion defense authorization bill. The House version did not contain the hate crime provisions.
GOP leaders in the House refused to allow the bill to move to a final vote with the hate crime add on.
"It's reprehensible that the GOP House leadership demanded the removal" of the hate crimes language, Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement Thursday evening.
The Human Rights Campaign decried the removal of the protections, which would have increased sentences for crimes motivated by hate against gays and lesbians. It would have added real or perceived sexual orientation, gender and disability to federal hate crime laws, thus allowing the federal government the ability to provide assistance for the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on these categories.
"Broad bipartisan support for this bill didn't stop the House GOP leadership from ensuring its demise," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.
"It's just five days away from the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death and another year will go by without adequate hate crimes protections. That's shameful. Even worse are the political motives behind it. Instead of promoting hate crimes protections, the President is promoting discrimination. Voters will remember that on Nov. 2"
HRC and other LGBT civil rights groups have been trying to have gays covered by hate laws since 1998.
Democrats say they will seek again to get the law passed in the next session of Congress.