What started as a high school feud ended up as a hate crime charge for two Crystal Lake, Ill. teenagers. IOne of the unidentified 16-year old girls had recently fallen out with a male friend. As part of her childish revenge against him, she and her cohort printed up some pamphlets of the boy kissing another boy.
The young ladies also decided to include some decidedly, devilishly unladylike messages, such as “God Hates Fags”. Those flyers landed the girls in juvenile court on Tuesday, where they face charges of hate crime, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct.
McHenry County Stateâ€™s Attorney Lou Bianchi wants justice, saying the girls broke the state’s hate crime law, for their “crime” specifically targeted their ex-friend based on his sexual orientation. Bianchi’s just upholding the law:
This is a classic case of the kind of conduct that the state Legislature was directing the law against. This is what the legislators wanted to stop, this kind of activity.
Some of the girls’ classmates, however, think the girls should get off. One student, 16-year old Ryan Diamond brushed off the idea of a hate crime charge, with a disclaimer:
I donâ€™t care that people are gay. If my best friend told me he was gay, Iâ€™d be fine with it. I just donâ€™t think my friend should be arrested for that. Give them a warning, give them a fine, thatâ€™s one thing, but to arrest them, thatâ€™s bull.
To Diamond and others who question the charges, First Assistant McHenry County Stateâ€™s Attorney Thomas Carroll says, â€œYou can be charged with a hate crime if you make a statement or take an action that inflicts injury or incites a breach of the peace based on a personâ€™s race, creed, gender or perceived sexual orientation,â€
Hate crimes laws have been weighing on our national shoulders as of late. The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 1592, which offers a federal hand in solving hate crime laws. The Senate’s debating their version of the law – The Matthew Shepard Act – and some people predict success. Unfortunately, President Bush has vowed to veto any hate crime law that comes his way. He and his righteous pals believe hate crime legislation not only offer special protections, but hinders religious expression and free speech: an argument made in the Crystal Lake Case.
Chicago’s CBS affiliate reports:
Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the case illustrated a complex struggle between protecting targeted groups of people and protecting the First Amendment.
In fact, the issue is so divisive that the ACLU of Illinois differed from its national organizationâ€™s support of a federal hate-crimes law… â€œWe have a rather strong and historic strain of protecting free speech in this affiliate in a way that caused us to differentiate from the national organization,â€ Yohnka said.
Where do you draw the line with this sort of thing? Even if you don’t want to play the hate crime card, at the very least the girls committed a misdemeanor under Illinois’ anti-bullying provisions. That, of course, would be cleared from their record when they turn 18, just like this contentious hate crime charge.
Two 15-year-olds charged with hate crime [Daily Herald]
Students targeting classmate they had dispute with, authorities say [Daily Herald]