Can Lesbians Commit an Anti-Gay Hate Crime?


Earlier today, in response to my post about Dharun Ravi's "bias intimidation" trial, a reader wondered: What if Ravi were gay and spied on his roommate's makeout session out a "prurient interest in watching homosexual sex"? Objectively he would have done exactly the same thing, but he could hardly be accused of acting out of a bias against gay people. Right? Not so fast. The Boston Herald reports that three lesbians were recently arraigned on charges of "assault and battery with intent to intimidate" for beating a gay man while using "insulting homophobic slurs" (as opposed to complimentary slurs?). The attorney for one of the women says the man provoked the fight with racial slurs. The attorney for the two other women, who are sisters, says they did not even know he was gay. Their mother "told reporters the alleged attack 'can't be hateful' because both her daughters are lesbians." Wrong! "Someone who is Jewish can be anti-Semitic," explains Sarah Wunsch, an attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts. "The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn't mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group."

Yes, that's the American Civil Liberties Union, many of whose members unfortunately do not see how punishing people for their bigoted motives amounts to punishing them for their beliefs. Reason contributor Harvey Silverglate, a Boston criminal defense attorney who served for years on the board of the ACLU of Massachusetts, would like to set them straight. "My guess is that no sane jury would convict [these women] under those circumstances," he tells the Herald, "but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation….If you beat someone up, you're guilty of assault and battery of a human being. Period. The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure."