Excerpted from the Charlotte Observer:

Gay rights groups pounced on U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina Wednesday after she called the case behind a hate crimes bill “a hoax.”

Foxx’s comments came on the House floor during debate over the so-called Matthew Shepard bill, named for a 21-year-old gay man brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998. Supporters say he was the victim of a hate crime.

The bill would expand a federal hate crimes law to include acts motivated by sexual orientation.

“The Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed,” Foxx, a Banner Elk Republican, said. “But we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay.

“ The bill was named for him … but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

In a statement, Foxx later called her comments “a poor choice of words.” But the bill’s supporters wasted no time in criticizing her.

“It is no longer acceptable in this day and age to just come right out and say you don’t like gay people,” said Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign. “Extremist opponents of equality must resort to these types of malicious and twisted lies. Rep. Foxx should be ashamed of herself.”

Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia told a reporter that Foxx’s comments were “unreal, unbelievable.”

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