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Mitch Marr, Published May 24 2009

Letter writer’s comment was inaccurate and offensive

A recent letter writer, Alison Grotberg (Forum May 12), accused Democrats of “going to bat for pedophiles,” an accusation that is as inaccurate as it is offensive.

The object of contention is the federal hate crimes bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, including North Dakota’s Rep. Earl Pomeroy. I hope that Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., along with their Senate colleagues, will follow suit and pass this important legislation.

Opposition is employing familiar tactics, misconstruing the bill and making ugly insinuations. Grotberg not-so-subtly draws a line from sexual orientation to pedophilia in an effort to associate homosexuality with criminal or deviant behavior. It’s an insensitive and ignorant tactic.

The truth is, a hate crimes bill that includes sexual orientation will not provide special protections for pedophiles. Sexual abuse of minors is illegal and will remain illegal. This legislation will not change that.

If our primary concern is indeed for the safety of our youth, then passing an inclusive hate crimes bill makes a lot of sense. Lawrence King, a 15-year-old shot and killed in his California high school because of his gender expression, comes to mind. Youth are indeed too often the target of hate crimes, and this legislation would help prevent that.

The numbers speak for themselves. Hate crimes are tracked nationally, even in states without hate crimes legislation. Statistics show that while all other categories of hate crimes are down nationally since 2007, hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity have increased.

Pomeroy should be commended for his vote, and the rest of the congressional delegation from North Dakota should be supported as they work to curtail this increasingly violent expression of discrimination.

Marr is the executive director of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, a statewide organization that works to effect change so that all North Dakotans enjoy full human rights.