Rudy Giuliani

Shepard, Show the Way

Political irrelevance on hate crimes

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Politicians are often accused of being irrelevant. But rarely has a group of them been so intent on proving that charge than the senators who voted last week for the "The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007."

This bill is supposed to be a brave and pioneering piece of legislation. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights organization, "Congress has taken an historic step forward and moved our country closer to the realization that all Americans, including the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] community, are part of the fabric of our nation."

The bill, passed by the Senate Thursday, is named for a gay man beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998. In explaining the need for this bill, co-sponsor Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., declared, "What happened to Matthew should happen to no one."

You know what? He's right. Which is why murder is against the law, even in Wyoming, and why Shepard's attackers are now serving sentences (life in prison) that would not be any longer if this law had been in effect then.

As it happens, the bill will not likely ever become law, because the president has promised to veto it. But it would be a mostly cosmetic exercise even if it were enacted.

It targets crimes based on a host of illegitimate factors, including the victim's race, religion or national origin, as well as "gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability." Some of the latter categories have earned the bill the fervent denunciation of the Traditional Values Coalition for allegedly "catering to the homosexual/drag queen lobby."

That may win it the endorsement of Rudy Giuliani and John Travolta, but the bill has other shortcomings. The first is the defining defect of hate crimes bills: It is intended to provide extra penalties for criminals who think incorrect thoughts.

It's already illegal, after all, to deliberately injure someone with a gun or an explosive. But this measure establishes special punishment for anyone who carries out such an attack because the victim has certain traits. It's like slapping extra jail time on those who assault people who demonstrate against the Iraq war but not people who demonstrate in favor.

The most important feature, though, is one that the sponsors are loath to publicize. For all its grand intentions, it doesn't really do much at all. Supporters would like to make every hate crime a federal offense. But they can't. And the ones they can outlaw are so few and far between that it's hard to see why they bother.

The problem is that ordinary crime is mainly the purview of state and local governments. Over the last century, the federal government has usurped a lot of functions once assigned to lower levels of government, but there are limits on how far it can go.

Back in 2000, the Supreme Court struck down a major part of another high-minded statute, the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed anyone attacked because of her gender to sue the attacker in federal court. The reason the court gave for overturning the law was simple: The Constitution doesn't give Congress the power to legislate against crimes of a purely local nature.

Said the court, "We can think of no better example of the police power, which the founders denied the national government and reposed in the states, than the suppression of violent crime and the vindication of its victims." Only if such crimes are clearly connected to interstate commerce—which is rarely—can Washington intervene.

So if Congress can't legislate on violence against women, how can it legislate on violence against women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, transsexuals and the disabled? The truth is, it can't—except when such offenses are connected in some way to interstate commerce.

So the authors of the hate crimes bill were forced to restrict it to incidents that fit this tiny exception. The provision in question thus snares only those crimes in which someone crosses state lines, uses "a channel, facility or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce," or uses a weapon that has traveled across state or international boundaries.

What's the relevance to the murder of Matthew Shepard, or to most of the other attacks on gays? None whatsoever. You might think it's better to do nothing than to do something irrelevant. But for a lot of senators, there's no gesture like an empty gesture.

COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Until homeopathic treatment is outlawed, yes.

  2. The provision in question thus snares only those crimes in which someone crosses state lines, uses “a channel, facility or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce,” or uses a weapon that has traveled across state or international boundaries.

    Seems like that should cover any weapon other than a tree branch.

  3. Yeah, I got whiplash when he referred to something qualifying under the commerce clause as “a tiny exception.”

  4. “Seems like that should cover any weapon other than a tree branch.”

    Damn, I’m going to have to find a local source next time I buy my Louisville Fag Beater.

    Seriously thought, how can a court of law determine what someone was thinking while committing a crime?

    That seems to me to be outside the scope of a court’s power…

  5. Matthew Shepard wasn’t killed because he was gay. It was over meth.

  6. As if you’re less of a victim if you got beat up over money or a woman.

  7. Seriously thought, how can a court of law determine what someone was thinking while committing a crime?

    Courts do it all the time: intent is what differentiates murder from manslaughter. The lawyers call it mens rea I believe.

    With that being said the reason behind the intent shouldn’t matter. I don’t see why there should be any difference between “I intended to kill him because he seduced my wife” and “I intended to kill him because he had white skin”.

  8. The first is the defining defect of First Degree Murder bills: It is intended to provide extra penalties for criminals who think incorrect thoughts.

    Have you ever heard of the crime “Taking a Minor Across State Lines for Immoral Purposes?”

    Intent and motive are, and always have been, legitimate subjects of legal consideration and sentencing enhancement.

  9. Matthew Shepard wasn’t killed because he was gay. It was over meth.
    True, it was a drug-deal/robbery, but he was an Extra Special kinda person.

  10. joe,

    Have you ever heard of the crime “Taking a Minor Across State Lines for Immoral Purposes?”

    No, but I do vaguely remember a joke whose punch-line was, “Taking a miner across state lines for immoral porpoises.”

  11. Congress has taken an historic step forward and moved our country closer to the realization that all Americans, including the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender] community, are part of the fabric of our nation.

    Is it 1788 already? Jesus Christ the effort to be profoundly irrelevant continues unabated.

  12. Of course the real punch-line is that the Matthew Shepard murder wasn’t actually a hate crime.

    McKinny and Henderson murdered Shepard for money to feed their meth habit. The matter only became a cause celebre after the murders thought to play on the supposed homophobia of the local culture by claiming a “gay panic” defense. It didn’t work.

    I think the only effect of hate crime legislation will be to make criminals claim they acted from pure greed instead of trying to gain sympathy of the general public by appealing to a presumed shared prejudice.

  13. So, why can’t it be both drugs and the fact that Shepard was gay?

  14. Libertarian reasoning can often be shallow, and this is a prime example. The reason hate crimes legislation exists is because there are two crimes in such acts. One is the physical harm to the victim, the other is the message of intimidation sent out to the wider group that the victim belonged to. I have personally witnessed gay bashing on the street and have no trouble grasping this concept.

  15. So who wants to bet on how long it takes hate crimes legislation to backfire on its proponents. History has shown that such vague standards in a law lead to the application of the law to circumstances its original authors did not foresee. (Think RICO)

    How long will it be until we see, say, demonstrators who vandalize property during a gay rights demonstration, being charged with hate crimes?

  16. hate crimes legislation exists is because there are two crimes in such acts. One is the physical harm to the victim, the other is the message of intimidation sent out to the wider group that the victim belonged to.

    Help me understand the deep, non-libertarian reasoning. Are you suggesting that absent the physical harm to the victim there is still a crime? Isn’t that where the shallow libertarian starts talking about thought crimes?

  17. swillfredo,

    He’s suggesting that harm above and beyond that done in a robbery-murder, is done in a hate crime murder, and this additional harm should be considered an aggravating circumstance during sentencing.

  18. Yes, swillfredo- merely threatening someone with physical harm without actually doing it is a crime (and should be).

  19. Seems like that should cover any weapon other than a tree branch.

    Wrong! See medical marijuana, supreme court and commerce clause,

  20. Yes, swillfredo- merely threatening someone with physical harm without actually doing it is a crime (and should be).

    What?!?

    That’s like me saying “I might smoke pot next week” and being prosecuted for it.

    I think the 1st Amendment is pretty clear on this.

  21. I saw a guy getting his ass kicked, but there was crearly no hate or malice involved.

  22. Addendum: If one continuously threatens an individual, it is harassment, as it demonstrated a documented pattern of abuse.

    But to say that some guy getting pissed off in a bar and telling another guy he’s going to catch an ass-whuppin’ should be tantamount to a crime (“terroristic threats,” I believe) is lunacy.

  23. harm should be considered an aggravating circumstance

    What harm, being hated? The harm Matthew Shepard suffered was being assaulted and murdered.

    Suppose I am sitting at the bar and I hate the gay guy next to me but do nothing to him. I believe we can agree that is not a crime.

    Suppose I am sitting at the bar and I assault and murder the gay guy next to me, but not because I hate him. We agree that it is a crime.

    Now suppose I am sitting at the bar and I tie the gay guy sitting next to me to a tree then murder him, all the while hating him for being gay, maybe even murdering him because he is gay. What is the separate crime above and beyond the assault and murder?

  24. merely threatening someone with physical harm without actually doing it is a crime (and should be).

    Agreed, but that is not the definition of a hate crime.

  25. there have been some interesting unintended consequences to this kind of legislation – i remember seeing a black brooklyn minister on tv in 2005 after a white satanist in middle village, queens was attacked by two other teens who were charged with a hate crime. the anguish in his face was very plain as he said “this is not what these laws were meant to do” which leads us to the interesting corner of what does and does not constitute (in this case) a religious minority.

  26. swillfredo,

    What harm, being hated?

    No, the harm to peopl on the other side of town, and on the other side of the country, that happens when terroristic violence is employed.

    The Al Shartpon rallies. The members of the minority groups who start distrusting, or maybe taking “revenge” on, members of the group that the attackers belonged to. When a black man is dragged behind a truck in Texas, it does damage in Florida, New York, and Illinois, too. That’s the point of terroristic, hate crimes: they send a message.

    And, once again, it’s not a separate crime. Just like when you shoot the guy next to you at a bar vs. shooting a police officer – it’s the same act, it does the same thing to the immediate victim, but you will get a harsher sentence if you are found guilty, because of the particular threat your crime poses to society.

  27. dhex,

    If people are supporting these laws because they are only concerned about crimes against people in their groups, but they are applied to cases of crimes against people in other groups – I can live with that. That’s a feature, not a bug.

  28. Forget declaring it a hate crime, let’s just call it “terrorism” and lock ’em up in Gitmo!

    Yes, swillfredo- merely threatening someone with physical harm without actually doing it is a crime (and should be).

    What?!?

    That’s like me saying “I might smoke pot next week” and being prosecuted for it.

    I think the 1st Amendment is pretty clear on this.

    Actually, you can’t just threaten someone with physical harm and then claim that you are protected by the 1st amendment. The threat of violence is the “assault” part of “assault and battery”.

  29. I don’t understand this at all. How can you relegate plain old murder victims to lesser legal status and feel good about yourself?

  30. Just like when you shoot the guy next to you at a bar vs. shooting a police officer – it’s the same act, it does the same thing to the immediate victim, but you will get a harsher sentence if you are found guilty, because of the particular threat your crime poses to society.

    Again that is not analogous to a hate crime. IANAL but my understanding of a hate crime is that the victim is targeted for the crime because of his inclusion in a certain group. Are we going to put a red jersey on all members of these groups so that everybody knows they are protected species? (That metaphor makes sense if you follow NFL training camps)

  31. Actually, you can’t just threaten someone with physical harm and then claim that you are protected by the 1st amendment. The threat of violence is the “assault” part of “assault and battery”.

    I stand corrected. Thanks all…

  32. joe,

    When a black man is dragged behind a truck in Texas, it does damage in Florida, New York, and Illinois, too. That’s the point of terroristic, hate crimes: they send a message.

    What message did the incident in Jasper, Tx actually send? After all, local authorities arrested the perpetrators before the Rangers even showed up and a local jury sentenced them to death in record time. Is the message: Kill someone in Texas out of racial animosity and you get the needle?

    Seriously, can you think of any incident in the last 30 years that sent the message that killing or harming individuals because of the inclusion in some group is socially okay? Do you have any evidence whatsoever to suggest that people are committing hate crimes because they think that society will sanction their actions by giving them softer than normal sentences?

  33. I stand corrected. Thanks all…

    Wow Honesty and humility. We could use more of that at this site.

  34. Question for lawyers (or anybody who knows):

    How is the hate portion of the hate crime proved? Does there have to be a showing of intent? Some here are suggesting that a hate crime is a battery or homicide plus an additional terroristic threat. Must the prosecution demonstrate that the defendants intended the terroristic threat portion? Or can that just be implied whenever the defendant is a member of a minority group?

  35. We need these laws to send a message that killing hated people is not legal. It is a form of domestic terrorism.

    As if you’re less of a victim if you got beat up over money or a woman.

    You aren’t, but society is less of a victim.

    “I intended to kill him because he had white skin”.

    Not a hate crime because white is not a protected group.

    “Seems like that should cover any weapon other than a tree branch.”

    No, the tree uses oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air, which may have blown by the wind from another state.

    Matthew Shepard wasn’t killed because he was gay. It was over meth.

    If they had hate crime laws, this wouldn’t have happened.

  36. Juanita,

    I think they probably already want to expand the definition of terrorism, please don’t give them any more ideas.

  37. When a black man is dragged behind a truck in Texas, it does damage in Florida, New York, and Illinois, too. That’s the point of terroristic, hate crimes: they send a message.

    joe, you brought this up a while back (a couple of years ago even? Gawd how long have we been at this???) and I considered it the best defense of hate crime law I had ever heard. So I congratulate you on that.

    Still, it miserably fails the innocent till proven guilty test. Because it is your assumption that anyone committing a crime out of bigotry is inherently “sending a message.” Prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was doing something, anything to intimidate third parties, and you can tack harrassment onto whatever else that someone is guilty of. But to make all bigotry motivated crime a form of harrassment without having to prove the latter sidesteps due process.

    I believe in giving judges a fairly wide spectrum of sentencing discretion despite the inherent cons that go with the pros of that, and I would certainly hope and expect bigotry, or any sort of premeditated intent to harm, to be an aggravating circumstance worthy of invoking throwing the book at the perpetrator.

  38. JasonL,

    How can you relegate second-degree murder victims to lesser status than first-degree murder victims, and feel good about yourself?

    What about the people killed in manslaughter cases?

    What about the people who are just shot by muggers, as opposed to being chlorine-gassed by a terrorist?

    You’re not going to make me feel guilty for recognizing that some murders, and some murderers, are more dangerous than others.

  39. swillfredo,

    That’s not quite right. Hate crimes are those that involve someone who is targetted for their membership in a group. The “red shirts” would have to include us all, as white people being targetted by black people would be an example of such a law, just as much as black people being targetted by white people.

    It’s not a question of what racial, religious, ethnic, or gender group someone belongs to, but the attacker’s motive, that’s the relevant criteria here.

  40. Shannon Love,

    I don’t think that the response to the crime by the authorities in Jasper is relevant here. No one is saying that the police and government considered the murder okay.

    Nonetheless, it provoked responses. The “New Black Panthers” marched into town – you don’t that that they received a message?

  41. fyodor,

    Where did you get this “not prove” bit? Of COURSE they have to prove, to the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was a hate crime for that charge to stick. Just as they have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a killer was a paid hit man, rather than an angry loner or disgruntled neighbor, for the murder-for-hire enhancements to stick.

    I would certainly hope and expect bigotry, or any sort of premeditated intent to harm, to be an aggravating circumstance worthy of invoking throwing the book at the perpetrator.

    Me, too. That would be my preferred type of hate-crimes legislation. But for some odd reason, the idea that society would want to single out such bigotted intimidation as something especially dangerous and deplorable doesn’t sit right with some people. In the case of those who oppose extending hate-crimes status to attacks on gay people, I don’t think it’s difficult to understand why – because they don’t feel that bigotry and intimidation against openly gay people is something especially deplorable.

  42. I a guy commits a murder, prosecute him for murder. Theres no need for this “hate crimes” stuff, it just adds to more bureaucracy and complicates are already screwed up system of justice even further.

    Oh well, I can at least be glad we don’t have “hate speech” criminalized here yet.

  43. If someone commits murder, prosecute them for murder. If they commit a robbery, prosecute them for robbery.

    This “hate crime” stuff just complicates further our already screwed up system of justice.

  44. Wow. good discussion. Knowing the pros and cons of hate crime legislation beforehand, I thought I’d have to come into the discussion and argue some point, but most of the points for and against have been covered. Smart group.

  45. Cesar, you should go back through the previous comments here. Your argument has been addressed (and disproven).

  46. Where did you get this “not prove” bit? Of COURSE they have to prove, to the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it was a hate crime for that charge to stick.

    You have to prove they targetted someone because of their group, but not that they were using their crime as a form of intimidation or harrassment towards others.

    they don’t feel that bigotry and intimidation against openly gay people is something especially deplorable.

    Curious, are there judges letting perpetrators off easy for crimes against gays?

  47. fyodor,

    The damage done by a hate crime – the terroristic intimidation – doesn’t have to be intentional, any more than, say, the dead girls in that Birmingham church were intentional targets.

    When you commit a violent crime, you are responsible for the consequences of that violence.

    Curious, are there judges letting perpetrators off easy for crimes against gays?

    I can recall a case back in the 80s when a Texas judge gave two murderers lighter sentence because, paraphrasing closely from his opinion, “…if the victim wasn’t out trying to have sex with teenaged boys, he wouldn’t be dead.”

  48. If people are supporting these laws because they are only concerned about crimes against people in their groups, but they are applied to cases of crimes against people in other groups – I can live with that. That’s a feature, not a bug.

    well for you it’s a feature. for that guy, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of atrocity. i can appreciate his dissonance in a weird way, no doubt hate crimes was not connected to white kids in his mind, much less actual “evil” in his particular value system.

    but where i don’t buy the whole thing is that localized acts are meant to send a message. in the abstract, maybe, but for the most part it’s meant to inflict direct harm on the person being directly harmed. maybe once you get up into al qaeda/church of the creator type territory, you have a point, but on the low end it’s people being shitty to other people. (whom they view as less than people, obviously…but that seems to be true of all crimes against person.)

  49. It’s not a question of what racial, religious, ethnic, or gender group someone belongs to, but the attacker’s motive, that’s the relevant criteria here.

    Which brings us back to what I have said all along, and I have been quoted by so many: It’s thought crime.

    The “New Black Panthers” marched into town – you don’t [think] that they received a message?

    According to this article “The New Black Panthers circled around the [KKK] rally, chanting “Black Power,” but were unable to pierce the barricades. After [Khallid] Muhammad’s gun threats, police ordered the Klan to go home, and then surrounded Muhammad. Only one Panther member was arrested that weekend, charged with disorderly conduct. He was later released.

    It seems to me that the white residents of Jasper now had a perfectly legitimate reason to feel like they were victims of a hate crime; as you put it at 10:47 joe “That’s the point of terroristic, hate crimes: they send a message.”

  50. No, swillfredo, it’s a violent crime.

    As with Second Degree Murder, Intentional Manslaughter, and Taking a Minor Across State Lines for an Immoral Purpose, the thought element is not the basis of the crime, but an aggravating factor.

    Making a bigotted motivation part of a sentencing enhancement is no more of a “thoughtcrime” than making First Degree Murder more serious than Second Degree Murder.

    It seems to me that the white residents of Jasper now had a perfectly legitimate reason to feel like they were victims of a hate crime

    Then you don’t know what you’re talking about, because hate crimes require the commission of a violent crime.

    You are dodging. Each of these points has already been made, each of your objections already answered, and you’re just pretending not to have seen them, and alternating between one and the other as they are each refuted in turn.

  51. BTW, swill, if you think that noticing that black people can commit hate crimes under this definition somehow undermines my position, then you need to stop arguing with the liberal in your head.

  52. The damage done by a hate crime – the terroristic intimidation – doesn’t have to be intentional, any more than, say, the dead girls in that Birmingham church were intentional targets.

    When you commit a violent crime, you are responsible for the consequences of that violence.

    Then it seems like the point of hate crimes, per your justification, is to criminalize intentions that aren’t necessarily intended? I mean, if the point is that one’s intention reveals that it’s a form of intimidation, for you to say that it doesn’t matter whether that intimidation is intended seems rather ironic. Anyway, any form of violence can incidentally make the world a scarier place for others. To criminalize such an unintended consequence in any other circumstance would reveal it to be the madness that it is. I’m already a little queasy about criminalizing indirect harrassment; that one could be guilty of it without even intending it shows why.

    That sure sucks about that Texas judge in the 80’s, but citing one 20 year old case only seems to highlight how rare and unlikely it most likely is.

  53. fyodor,

    You seem to be working particularly hard on the semantic dodge. I think you get the point perfectly well, and playing dumb is not he sign of someone making a serious effort to discuss ideas.

    Hate crimes – fag bashing, Paki-stomping, what have you – stir up racial tension. That’s a bad thing. Hate crimes laws recognize this dynamic, and treat them more seriously because of it.

    What are you trying to argue? That those crimes do NOT cause that damage? Or that it is impossible to ever know whether a particular crime was a hate crime? I don’t think you believe either of those thing. I think you are so terrified that the mythical PC Police are coming that you are being deliberately obtuse.

    BTW, we criminalize unitended consequences of violent acts all the time. If you shoot a guy, and the bullet goes through him and kills the guy behind him, you get two murder charges.

  54. The first is the defining defect of First Degree Murder bills: It is intended to provide extra penalties for criminals who think incorrect thoughts.

    No, it is intended to provide extra penalties to criminals who premeditate a murder, who plan it in cold blood and execute said plan. Are you seriously arguing that such a dangerous sociopath should be treated the same as someone who commits a crime in the heat of the moment?

    As opposed to hate crime legislation, which presumes a favored group is “more equal” than others, and thus entitled to more favorable treatment under the law.

  55. prolefeed,

    First of all, there are no favored groups in hate crimes legislation. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Null set. So you can knock off that sorry dodge. Any person, from any group, even those you prefer, such as white Christians, can be victimized by a hate crime. As a matter of fact, the FBI often identifies more hate crimes committed by black people against white than vice-versa.

    Second, premeditate a murder, who plan it in cold blood ARE thoughts. You are acknowledging that it is the thought process that makes them more dangerous. And you are right – those thoughts make the crime even more egregious, and make their perpetrator especially dangerous.

    Are you seriously arguing that such a dangerous sociopath should be treated the same as someone who commits a crime in the heat of the moment? No, I have no problem whatsoever recognizing that their thought process makes the crime more terrible and the criminal more dangerous. None at all. I am actually recognizing that truth, and using it as a parallel for doing the same thing in a different context.

  56. Hate crimes – fag bashing, Paki-stomping, what have you – stir up racial tension. That’s a bad thing. Hate crimes laws recognize this dynamic, and treat them more seriously because of it.

    joe, homosexuals are not a race.

    And hate crime statutes, when applied to race, are racism — they give greater protection to a favored race. When they are applied based on gender, they are sexist.

    Hate crime legislation assumes some people are better and more worthy of protection than others, however much you might try to dress it up as helping the persecuted. Try thinking of it this way — suppose blacks (or asians, or gays, or whoever) were to become the majority group in this country. Would it then be OK to rewrite the hate crime laws to make assaults on whites/straights/Republicans subject to higher penalties than the majority groups?

  57. First of all, there are no favored groups in hate crimes poll tax legislation. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Null set. The poll tax applies equally to everyone, whites included.

    *One second time delay, followed by android Hillary clone “HAHAHAHA!”

    I’m sure the liberals pushing this law have no intention of having it apply more often to one subset of people to others. None. Nada. Zilch. Entirely even-handed, folks. Move along, nothing to see here.

    Do you really believe this crap, joe? Or are you just hoping to fool enough people to help “liberal” politicians gain 51% of the vote on this issue?

  58. joe, the perceived damage of a violent crime on people not involved is abstract, subjective, variable and impossible to measure purely by the degree that bigotry played a role in the violence. It may be nil or close to it in plenty of circumstances, especially in comparison to any other particular act of violence. Your analogy works best when likened to a mob boss ordering gratuitous violence to make an example, but a mob boss would not be doing this unknowingly or accidentally or not knowing who his victims were.

    I think the law handles murder in special ways and thus analogies to it are misleading.

    And BTW, I mean what I say and I say what I mean. Don’t accuse me of playing dumb and expect me to ever back you again when others accuse you of being overly sensitive and starting the trash talk.

  59. if you think that noticing that black people can commit hate crimes under this definition somehow undermines my position, then you need to stop arguing with the liberal in your head.

    I was not aware that this is a liberal versus everyone else. The fact that both whites and blacks and straights and gays can be charged with hate crimes does not make them any less retarded. You are going to have to accept the fact that there is no moral ground to assume here so go ahead and dismount your high horse. No one who opposes the laws does so because they think it is acceptable to target victims. Rather we recognize that why a victim is chosen is irrelevant, and more importantly we recognize that when the government starts prosecuting for thoughts, we have taken yet another large step towards a totalitarian state.

  60. Well, I’ve read all the comments so far and I’m somewhat disappointed that no one seems to have touched on the real reason for hate crimes legislation.

    The reasoning for hate crimes legislation has nothing to do with justice or protecting minorities, and everything to do with going after the votes of minorities. IOW, hate crimes is really about politics.

    It’s a “wedge issue” and both the major parties use them. This is one used by the Left. It’s pandering to minorities, pure and simple. Then when the opposition candidate points out some of the problems with hate crime legislation (in the case, from the political Right), the Left leaning pol can accuse his opponent of lacking sensitivty toward the concerns, needs of minorities etc.

  61. “How can you relegate second-degree murder victims to lesser status than first-degree murder victims, and feel good about yourself?

    What about the people killed in manslaughter cases?

    What about the people who are just shot by muggers, as opposed to being chlorine-gassed by a terrorist?

    You’re not going to make me feel guilty for recognizing that some murders, and some murderers, are more dangerous than others.”

    I really don’t follow this. I understand that premeditation is a greater crime than crime of passion. I understand that conspiracy is an element worth considering. I don’t understand formal recognition of protected groups as being consistent with the principle of equality under the law.

    If you want to make the argument that some white guy walking around in south central who gets shot should be able to make the case that he was shot because he was white and that is especially bad, okay, I guess.

    There is nothing in the definition of manslaughter that defines a protected class of people.

  62. The reasoning for hate crimes legislation has nothing to do with justice or protecting minorities, and everything to do with going after the votes of minorities.

    The problem with pandering to minorities is that it doesn’t work, and never has. Try again.

    Hate crime legislation assumes some people are better and more worthy of protection than others

    As someone already pointed out, that’s bullshit. You can’t use the fact that so-called “protected” groups are in fact more frequent targets to claim that they are “more worthy”.

    I’m undecided on this issue, but arguing against it using unsubstantiated hunches and outright lies isn’t helping your case.

  63. Randy,

    You may be correct, but that’s hardly a valid argument because it’s essentially circular reasoning, or begging the question, as it assumes that hate crimes legislation is inappropriate in order to demonstrate that hate crimes legislation is inappropriate. You could ultimately say that about anything you disagreed with. And you could very well be correct, but it still wouldn’t be a very useful argument to use with people who see it differently.

  64. prolefeed,

    Go to the FBI’s web site. Look up the statistics on hate crimes. Then stop yammering about “protected groups” being “more protected” than “majority groups.”

    The phrase “on the basis of race” applies just as much to an attack by black people on a white guy than vice versa. That’s both the language of the law, and how it is applied by law enforcement.

    Yes, I believe it. Do you know why? Because it is TRUE.

  65. fyodor,

    I agree that the second-order harm of a hate crime cannot be measured precisely. Nonetheless, that doesn’t refute its existence or its importance.

    swillfredo,

    The fact that both whites and blacks and straights and gays can be charged with hate crimes does not make them any less retarded. Well, maybe. But what it does mean is that the argument the prolefeed and JasonL are making – that these laws give greater protection to “favored groups” over “majorities” – is nonsense. There are no groups – none, zero, zip, zilch – that are given any more protection than non-members of that group under hate crimes legislation.

    No one who opposes the laws does so because they think it is acceptable to target victims. I did not mean to suggest that they do, but that, in the case of people who oppose extending hate crimes legislation to cover homophobic violence, there most certainly are people who are motivated by an opposition to the idea that hatred of gay people is something our society should oppose.

  66. Joe, if we could trust that these laws would always be used in obvious cases then you’d have a pretty good case. Do you really trust that that would be the case? As has been pointed out, the poster case for this (Shepard) isn’t nearly as clear cut as activists would like to believe. Are we to trust the Sharptons of the world with this type of power?

  67. “Actually, you can’t just threaten someone with physical harm and then claim that you are protected by the 1st amendment. The threat of violence is the “assault” part of “assault and battery”.

    as a point of law – depends on the state. many states don’t have “battery”. they have merely assault (which is what most states call assault and battery). threats are (in my state) ‘harassment’

    however, to get even more pedantic…

    there are threats, and there are “true threats”

    generally speaking, for there to be a crime, there has to be “true threats”

    case law varies by state (love them democratic republics), but to put it briefly, “talkin’ smack” aint quite enough, even if the words are threatening.

    in order for the threat to be a ‘true threat’, there must be a bit more, but the general concept stands. – it’s illegal to threaten to kick somebody’s ass.

    among other things, a true threat includes a reasonable apprehension on the part of the person receiving the threat (iow, a fear that a reasonable person in the same circ’s would feel), etc.

    that is why, for instance, the black knight in monty python, after having various limbs lopped off, would not have been committing a “true threat” since he no longer was a threat, to any reasonable knight that is.

  68. “As a matter of fact, the FBI often identifies more hate crimes committed by black people against white than vice-versa.”

    for clarification’ sake – on a PER CAPITA basis.

    blacks, being only 13% of the population, and all. but yes, blacks are more likely, on a per capita basis, to commit hate crimes than whites.

  69. “Hate crimes are those that involve someone who is targetted for their membership in a group. ”

    yes. more correctly, for their “perceived membership”

    if some guys beat the crap out of a metrosexual d00d, on their (false) perception that he’s gay, and for that reason, it’s a hate crime. even though, he wasn’t gay.

  70. the biggest problem with this bill is that it’s a federal measure. that should be the crux of the discussion. there should be no federal criminal law, except for the limited instances discussed in the constitution, such as treason, or inherently federal issues such as maritime law. i have no problem with states passing “hate crime” laws. as has been already repeated, they are simply sentence enhancements for existing offenses, something done all the time: premeditated versus not premeditated, child/elderly/disabled victim versus other victims, repeat offenses versus first offense, etc. as for the speech issue, while obviously not perfect, the courts have actually laid down fairly rigorous standards to prevent “speech alone” from enhancing the sentence.

  71. Hate crime laws are ridiculous.

    I was once beat-up by five rednecks because i was perceived to be a “hippie”. so of course they yelled crap about “welfare” and “food stamps” ( I actually made more money than any of them, sorry i had to add that because it really pissed me off as i was bleeding)

    Now, if they had been beating up someone who was gay – they would have shouted stuff about being a “faggot”, and of course, we all know what they would have shouted were I black.

    The point is they were hateful violent idiots. They would have said whatever they thought would make me feel the worst. However, had i been gay or black, it would have been a “hate crime” – proven by the insults shouted during the attack.

    The idea that they should recieve a less severe punishment because I’m not gay or black really disgusts me.

  72. I’ve been mugged twice in Detroit because I am white. Is this a hate crime? I am a member of a group.

    No, I’m a member of the only group that’s not protected, because I am a terrible white man. Just terrible.

  73. Intent is always considered during sentencing.

    Hell, this isn’t even the legislation of intent as a separate crime, like possession with intent to distribute, or solicitation of children, or attempted murder.

    It’s a sentencing recommendation.

    I don’t fully agree with the current hate crimes legislation, though I see nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t go far enough.

    If the intent is to reduce recidivism as a criminal justice measure, they should stop pandering to identity politics.

    Instead, there should be such heavy-handed sentencing guidelines when a violent crime is committed based on the victim’s actual or perceived identity as a representative of ANY group, not just groups defined by the characteristics in the hate crimes bill.

    These sentencing guidelines are appropriate because these types of acts are ripe for recidivism as outlined in the DOJ’s Policymaker’s Guide to Hate Crimes.

    The high reported rate of recidivism is easy to understand when you consider the difference between a normal act of violence and a hate-motivated act.

    In a normal act of violence, once the particular victim is disposed of, no more victims exist.

    In a hate-motivated act, there is an unlimited supply of victims, and one doesn’t un-learn prejudice in prison. Presto, recidivism.

  74. Instead, there should be such heavy-handed sentencing guidelines when a violent crime is committed based on the victim’s actual or perceived identity as a representative of ANY group, not just groups defined by the characteristics in the hate crimes bill.

    Bingo. Why, for instance, isn’t it a hate crime to harass a legal hunter? That’s illegal in every state, but it’s not a hate crime because hunting (and vegetarianism) aren’t included in the List of Approved Causes.

    Where’s this thing called “equal protection under the law?”

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