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Michigan AFA leader ‘disappointed’ by Perry’s support for 2001 hate crimes bill

Gov. Rick Perry has been drawing fire for weeks from activists, watchdog groups and some churches, for partnering with the American Family Association for his upcoming prayer rally in Houston.

As the Texas Independent reported, religious freedom advocates and LGBT groups are teaming up to protest outside Reliant Stadium, because of the anti-gay message promoted by the group’s leaders.

The Westboro Baptist Church, a group that’s become notorious for protesting military funerals, even seemed to come around Perry’s religious flank, promising to join in picketing what it called a “phony ‘prayer’ political rally.”

As it turns out, one leader of an AFA state chapter isn’t ready to throw his support behind Perry, either, concerned his tenure as governor has already been too gay-friendly, after signing a hate crime law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2001.

Gary Glenn, executive director of the AFA of Michigan, wrote in June that he was “disappointed” to learn Perry had signed the bill, which he said “poses the greatest single threat to religious free speech rights in America today.”

Without mentioning Perry’s AFA-sponsored prayer rally in particular, he questions the wisdom of electing Perry to higher office, now that he’s already created a “protected class” within the law. The Texas law calls for harsher penalties for crimes motivated by “bias or prejudice against a person or group.”

Glenn, who did not return calls from the Independent, is a plaintiff in a federal suit over the 2009 Federal Hate Crimes Act, and appeared in our sister publication, the Michigan Messenger last week, after suggesting that companies avoid hiring gays and lesbians. He has also warned of about the “second-hand” risks of homosexuality.

In a note on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Glenn wrote:

If Perry were to become the Republican nominee for president, both major presidential candidates would be on record as having signed into law what is arguably the most dangerous element of homosexual activists’ political agenda, which we routinely characterize — when criticizing Obama and other Democrats who advocate it — as threatening to result in the criminalization of Christianity. It poses no less a threat to religious freedom if signed into law by a Republican.

In his speech at the bill’s signing 10 years ago, Perry anticipated the backlash: “Some will disagree with my decision. I would simply ask that they also try to do what I have done – to walk in another Texan’s shoes.” At the time, Perry referred only to the bill’s provisions for “religion, or race, or gender.”

The bill passed only after three years of work, following the hate-crime murders of James Byrd and Matthew Shepard in 1998. As governor George W. Bush refused to support it. Still, as KXAN reported in November 2010, while 2500 hate crimes had been reported since the law took effect, only 11 were prosecuted with the stiffer penalties.

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