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Surprise outcome of museum shooting: gay rights

The gay community wants the same hate-crime protections that blacks and Jews have – and would get them in legislation before Congress now.

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James Von Brunn, the white supremacist charged with murdering a Holocaust Museum security guard last week, could inadvertently have won a major victory for homosexuals in the United States.

This month the US Senate is considering an amendment to federal hate-crime laws, which would broaden the definition of a hate crime, offer federal money and training to local jurisdictions, and expand the laws' protections to gays, lesbians and transgender Americans.

Now, Congress is under greater pressure to acknowledge that gays face the same threats as the Jews and blacks targeted by Mr. Von Brunn, and it could take action as soon as this week.

A US District Court announced Monday that the injured octogenarian won't be well enough to be arraigned for at least another week. It's likely Von Brunn will be charged under existing federal hate-crimes laws that cover violent attacks based on race, religion, or creed.

Adding sexuality to that list, however, is problematic. Critics say the legislation could potentially criminalize pastors' sermons against homosexuality. A letter-writing campaign against the bill brought more than 500,000 complaints to the Senate.

But proponents are looking for a number of ways to get the bill passed, from folding the hate-crimes legislation into a separate bill to offering conservatives expanded gun rights as a compromise.

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