Alright, I made a fairly straight-forward statement there with that title. But I want everyone to understand how ridiculous I think all of the legislation around this is. Not only is hate crime legislation unfair and contradictory, it is hypocritical in today’s hate filled climate. This is a topic that I have actually wanted to cover ever since I started writing this blog. I just never got around to it. Today the news discussed the fact that Michael Savage (Conservative radio host) was banned from coming to the UK because of the things he says on the air. During the coverage on some sites, hate speech legislation came up because that is what he is banned from the UK for, hate speech.
Let me give everyone a quick background on hate crime legislation. Since it is here and we have to deal with it, let’s take a look at how we got to this point. Hate crime laws in the United States (also known as bias crimes) protect against crimes motivated by enmity or animus against a “protected class”. Although state and federal laws vary, typical protected characteristics are race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Traditional hate crime legislation protects persons because of “his race, color, religion or national origin,” as in the case of the 1969 federal hate crimes law.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994 and signed into law by Clinton, requires the US Sentencing Commission to increase the penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person. In 1995, the Sentencing Commission implemented these guidelines, which only apply to federal crimes. As a side note, this Act is responsible for far more than just hate crime legislation. The bill also contains Title XI, subtitle A, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban or Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Ban.
On May 3, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (also known as the Matthew Shepard Act). This bill expands existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It went back in for re-working, and on April 24, 2009, the Act passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15–12. On April 29, 2009 (Last Week!), the U.S. House of Representatives voted 249-175 to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 requires the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. The Campus Hate Crimes Right to Know Act of 1997 requires campus security authorities to collect and report data on hate crimes committed on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability. The DOJ and the FBI have kept statistics on hate crimes since 1992 in accordance with these Laws. According to these reports, of the over 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, 55% were motivated by racial bias, 17% by religious bias, 14% sexual orientation bias, 14% ethnicity bias, and 1% disability bias. For example, in 2004, there were 7,649 criminal hate crime incidents, out of 1,367,009 violent crimes.
45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of bias-motivated violence or intimidation (the exceptions are AR, GA, IN, SC, and WY). Each of these statutes covers bias on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity; 32 of them cover sexual orientation; 32 cover disability; 28 cover gender; 13 cover age; 11 cover transgender/gender-identity; 5 cover political affiliation. 31 states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action, in addition to the criminal penalty, for similar acts. 27 states and the District of Columbia have statutes requiring the state to collect hate crime statistics; 16 of these cover sexual orientation.
Let me first say that these laws are all quite hypocritical. The shear amount of hating floating around these days is ridiculous. Let’s face it, many of you here are on this site because I don’t allow that kind of hate to be the norm. Pure, unadulterated hatred of anyone with an opposing view is on full display in the media. In finding examples, I can always rely on my resident assholes, MSNBC. Hate laws protect gays in America, but Perez Hilton’s MSNBC tirade against Miss California was as hateful as any I have seen. And that was followed up by Michael Musto (if you are reading this Michael, you are dirtbag piece of shit) from The Village Voice who stated, “The pageant also paid for Carrie to cut off her penis. I know for a fact that Carrie Prejean used to be Harry Prejean, a homophobic man married 3 times.” Also from MSNBC, Jeanine Garofalo’s “This is nothing but a bunch racist, teabagging rednecks” rant after the Tea Parties. I guess people are OK with hate these days after all.
But my real beef with Hate Crime legislation is that it is completely contradictory. It says that you will be punished more harshly because you committed violence against someone because they are a member of a protected group. Beat a black man into a coma because he was an asshole, and you get 5 years. Use the N-word while you do it and you get 10 years. And that is just wrong. Violence is violence. A crime is a crime. The reasons why you committed the violent act are irrelevant in these terms. As much as we may think that someone who commits violence because of the factors involved in hate crime legislation are vile and disgusting people, it is a direct violation of the Constitution to restrict their right to say or feel the disgusting things they do.
And in our country we go as far as protecting their right to say those horrible things and be horrible people. The ACLU goes as far as to protect the 1st Amendment rights of the North American Man/Boy Love Association. But if NAMBLA members act on their beliefs they are prosecuted the same way any other sexual predator would be prosecuted. And it should be the same for those that commit a hate crime. Their right to say what they want and feel the way they feel is protected, but if they act on those beliefs, they should should be prosecuted exactly the same as any other person who commits that crime.
The idea that the reason that they committed the act deems it worthy of a worse penalty than someone else is extremely contradictory to me. I agree that it is horrible that someone would assault or kill someone because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. But is it more horrible than someone who kills a woman because she lives alone and is vulnerable? Is it more horrible than someone who kills a man because he walked into the wrong neighborhood? Is it more horrible than someone who kills someone because they want to steal their car or rob their house?
I say NO. The young black man who gets beaten to death because he was black is no more or no less dead than the young white man who gets beaten to death because he pinched a married woman’s ass in a bar. The result of the violence is the same regardless of the reason behind it. And that is the key. The result is the same. And therefore, the punishment should be the same. Uninitiated violence is wrong for any reason. If we can agree to that principle (and I think most of us can, especially BF!), then uninitiated violence should be punished equally no matter the reason. I am OK if you want to increase the penalty for all violent crimes, but not if you only increase the penalty for violent crimes done for this one reason.
A dead man is a dead man. A beat up woman is a beat up woman. The reasons are not the point. There are as many reasons for violent crime as there are people. Singling out a certain group of them and determining that their reason is inherently worse of a reason for violent crime is a travesty of justice.
You are all free to tell me how wrong I am now.