White House Civil Rights Czar said the Justice Department will change radically to fight discrimination against homosexuals as the Hate Crimes and ENDA bills pass through Congress.
-- From "Justice Department Expects to Crack Down on 'Gay Discrimination'" by Devlin Barrett, Associated Press 10/15/09
Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general in charge of the department's Civil Rights Division, said pending legislation in Congress will allow the department to attack discrimination against lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, a group often referred to by the acronym LGBT.
That would be new territory for the division that has historically gone after discrimination based on race, gender or religion. It would also be a major shift from the division's work during the Bush administration, which opposed expansion of the federal hate crimes law to prosecute those who attack gays.
Perez on Wednesday he gave his first speech to division employees, saying the division must be transformed "so that we are capable of tackling the civil rights challenges of the 21st century," include issues not historically addressed by the department.
"We must fight for fairness and basic equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters who so frequently are being left in the shadows," he said, and to "ensure that there's a level playing field in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are judged by the content of their character."
Perez's goal of greater government action on gay rights speech can only come if Congress changes civil rights law.
Conservative activists argued that such moves could come at the expense of people of religious faith.
"Too often it's religious liberty that's at stake when homosexuality is promoted in our society. The rights of people of faith who adhere to a biblical view of sexuality should not be crushed under the Obama administration's political promises to homosexual activists," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of Focus on the Family Action.
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