Bias Ban in the Balance

Will Lazio Burn State Hate Crimes Bill's 'Chance in Hell'?

Lazio's record on the federal bill, along with his refusal to sponsor a bill to prohibit antigay discrimination in the workplace, earned him a rating of 18 out of 100 from the national gay and lesbian lobby Human Rights Campaign. Critics doubt that the Lazio who blithely uttered the slur "pansy" on network television loses sleep over the risk some New Yorkers face merely because of their minority status.

With the coming of Lazio, one Democratic Assembly aide says, there is "not a chance in hell" that the bill will pass this session. The burst of conservative energy Lazio has brought may spare Republicans, previously fearful of losing votes this November in moderate suburbs, from capitulating to gay rights activists. Moreover, passing the state bill would only provide fodder for those eager to highlight Lazio's refusal to do so on a federal level.

When polls show the two-week-old candidate already pulling off a statistical tie, why rock the boat?

But Katz says he believes that Lazio will support a state hate crimes law—a popular way to convey his moderateness, if Conservative Party leader Mike Long will look the other way—and that, in doing so, he will enable party members to do the same without losing face. In fact, Lazio's support of Medicaid coverage for the disabled has already swayed state Republicans to reconsider a plan previously nixed by the governor as too expensive.

Democratic state senator Tom Duane, a prime sponsor of one of the bills, naturally is "optimistic" that some version of the law will be passed in the next two weeks or that a special session will be called later this year for that purpose. But, he says, "I never thought about Lazio as the person you went to in Congress to get other Republicans to support hate crimes legislation." If Lazio does change his tune, Duane says, "it would strike me as being something that only had to do with the Senate race." But hate crimes legislation advocates have long said that however they get the law, they'll take it.

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