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Why I hate hate crime legislation

May 6, 2009

Congress is currently debating another hate crime bill. This one is called the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009”.  It singles out the gay and transgendered for protected status.  The bill would broaden the definition of hate crimes to those crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  Hate crimes are eligible for harsher penalties, increased Federal law enforcement activity, and Federal funding. I’m against this legislation, and similar hate crime legislation.

I’m a fairly conservative person. Some might suspect me of being bigoted or homophobic.  But there’s a difference between opposing special status for a group of people and wanting harm to come those people. In fact, you can see the problem of hate crime legislation in some of the amendments being offered, and the reaction to those amendments. One legislator wanted to add clarification that the law didn’t protect pedophiles. Another wanted to add protection for veterans. Another wanted to add protection for the unborn and pregnant women.  Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz of Fla responded to these hostile amendments:

“I wonder if our friends on the other side of the aisle would be singing the same offensive tune if we were talking about hate crimes based on race or religion,” she said, referring to Republican opponents. “It seems to me it is the category of individuals that they are offended by, rather than the fact that we have hate crimes laws at all.”

That statement is at the crux of the problem with hate crime legislation. Some conservatives have said that this is a free speech issue. But that’s bogus. There’s a difference between protesting and targeting individuals with violence or intimidation. No, the problem with “hate crimes” is that it forces categorization of individuals.

Ever wonder why justice is portrayed with a blindfold? Or thought about why it’s GOOD that justice is blind? Justice should be based upon what is right and wrong, not who the victim is.  Justice should be independent of the individuals involved in the case. But hate crimes REQUIRE categorization of people.

Let’s say Sam is savagely attacked by 4 people. They beat him, drag him behind a truck, pour gasoline on him, and burn him alive. Is that a hate crime? A police investigation verifies all of the facts above, so we KNOW that a crime has been committed. But with these facts, we could “only” try these 4 defendants for murder. We can’t determine if a hate crime has been commited yet.

In order to do that, the police have to find out more information. Was Sam black?  Or gay? Or old? Or disabled? Was Sam a man or a woman? If Sam was black, it MAY have been a hate crime. But we also need to look at the defendants. Let’s say Sam was old and the defendants were young. Does that make it a hate crime? Well, maybe that’s probable cause for a hate crime. But really, to know for sure, the police need to determine the thoughts of the defendants. How did they FEEL toward Sam?

Hate crimes distort our legal system from an objective system into one predicated on plumbing the depths of emotion and thoughts of individuals. Suddenly, your skin color can be probably cause. Your melanin didn’t match the victims melanin, let’s run a check for hate crime indicators. You robbed a guy in a wheelchair? WHY did you do it? Justice is supposed to punish illegal activities. For example, robbing a store is wrong, even if you robbed the store to get food for your baby.  But hate crime sentencing is based on MOTIVATION. Turning the courts into an arena where juries and judges read the minds of people makes rulings arbitrary, inconsistent, and more dependent on the personal experiences and feelings of those judges,  and juries.

Lastly, setting up protected status for certain groups makes it less likely, not more likely, that those groups will be integrated into society. Existing law should deter criminal behavior. Murder is murder. Do gays gain acceptance by being protected? Do thugs respect women more because of hate crime laws? No. The criminal class is just as likely to hate protected groups MORE, because of that status. Hate crimes encourage people to think of others in terms of our differences. How does that unite us?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2009 12:59 am

    Light Duty…I’m glad I stumbled across this post. I like your explanation over this difficult issue. It’s not like anyone endorses murder. Let’s view things equally. I just spent the day putting my thoughts together and wrote an article along these same lines. Good stuff here.

    • lightduty permalink*
      May 6, 2009 11:25 pm

      Thanks! I need to approve comments faster 😉

  2. J. Chung permalink
    May 6, 2009 5:06 am

    I have never written to a blogger I didn’t know before – but had to thank you for this post. You hit the nail on the head. I hope you don’t mind, but I used a condensed version of your writing to write to my senators to oppose the bill (if you do mind, it’s too late now – hope you don’t hate me :0 ).

    • lightduty permalink*
      May 6, 2009 11:26 pm

      No problem at all. It’s important to let your lawmakers know how you feel!

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