Yes, the Matthew Shepard Act adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes. And it enables the feds to fund local law enforcement’s investigations into hate crimes. For supporters of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the legislation is one of equal rights and protection. For opponents, it’s a law that violates the First Amendment. But what about folks who don’t fall into either area, and simply believe the law actually does nothing?
“For the most horrific hate crimes, the change would accomplish absolutely nothing,” writes Steve Chapman. How come?
The old rationale for federal hate crimes legislation was that bigoted local cops and prosecutors were ignoring vicious assaults on minorities. But supporters have to admit things have changed. The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, notes that “85 percent of law enforcement officials surveyed recognize bias motivated violence to be more serious than similar crimes not motivated by bias.”
The existing law is mostly a curiosity, since it applies only to hate crimes in which the attacker singles out a victim on the basis of race, religion or national origin and is trying to interfere with the victim’s participation in one of six federally protected activities — going to a public school, applying for a job, serving as a grand juror and so on. Even in the most vicious cases, notes Jonathan Godfrey, a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, an attacker can’t be convicted “unless he is proved to have possessed both these intents.”
Sen. Kennedy wants to eliminate these restrictions because they make it hard for the feds to go after hate crimes. But the change might not go down well at the Supreme Court. In 1995, it overturned the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 for exceeding Congress’ authority over crime, which the court said is properly a responsibility of state and local governments.
So a federal hate crimes law may go from being a ban on extremely rare offenses to being unconstitutional. Some achievement.
Legit logic, or as ridiculous as calling the bill the Pedophile Protection Act?
The Court struck down the Gun Free School Zones Act because it found that prohibiting guns near schools was not logically tied to its Commerce Clause power to regulate interstate commerce, not because it was a “state or local issue.” Congress however would have the power to punish bias crimes because it can be said that systemic crime that explicitly targets select groups has a serious economic impact on interstate commerce. I know these are dull legal arguments, but the quoted writer’s opinion is simply wrong.
Secondly, why does this site feel the need to be so contrarian and negative about everything? If t was funny or snarky like Gawker it would be one thing – but it’s really not.
I’m not for it. I think it’s horrible what happened to Matthew and others who have been gay bashed, but it’s not going to stop it from happening. I personally think if someone is beaten or murdered they should be tried under those current laws and not have this protected class. I mean is the killing of a gay man/lesbian more offensive than killing a straight mother of 2 or a black or Hispanic man. Shouldn’t the law treat all crimes the same regardless of why they are committed?
Even if this law is passed, I don’t buy the argument that it protects pedophiles. I mean I can still call someone a slang term and that is not a hate crime as long as I don’t cause bodily harm. I don’t think anyone should be called a slang term but it’s a freedom of speech right and if they want to be a bigot and yell fag let them. Better to know ones enemy.
Here’s why treating a hate crime the same way as any other old crime doesn’t quite work: hate crimes have a different impact on the community that target belongs to. If that person was specifically singled out for belonging to a group and attacked for that very reason, it instills fear into that small community as a whole. It’s like burning crosses on a minority’s lawns or hanging all the Jews on the same street. To prosecute it as a ‘normal’ crime ignores the psychological impact of this type of crime since it is specifically being used to impact the community as a whole. If a gay person is beaten and robbed for their money, they’re not covered under hate crimes legislature. If someone goes out and bashes a gay person because he wants to teach “people like him” a lesson, then it would be. See the difference? 🙂
That’s how it was explained to me.
Chapman’s whole argument just doesn’t make sense. There are still many cases of hate crimes against homosexuals that aren’t prosecuted to the fullest extent as a result of prejudice and discrimination on the state level. This law is 100% necessary; Chapman is clearly a bigot.
As a member of a protected class, I should feel equally safe, but I don’t think this bill accomplishes that mission. I am no more likely to hold my husband’s hand in public because the people who beat us up with be in prison for three months instead of two. I would prefer equal protection, so I can at least exercise my rights as a full citizen.
When will second class citizenship be a hate crime? When will I be able to send my state legislature to prison for denying me the basic human liberties heterosexuals are afforded?
The real pain in all of this is the extreme hypocrisy we are subject to. The Right thinks we are too equal to get special protection, but we are equal enough to be allowed to marry. That is pretty convenient.
Yes, because there’s never violence against LGBTmericans when they are trying to attend a public school.
Also, the 5 things (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/245(b)(2).html see subsection 2) are pretty expansive. The seem to include any form of interstate travel, as well as any public accommodations, including restaurants, bars (maybe), hotels, gas stations, theaters, etc. As long as a gay bar is “facility which serves the public and which is principally engaged in selling food or beverages for consumption on the premises” than beating up someone going into or coming out of one would pretty well be covered.
It might not cover someone getting bashed after they came out to their friend, but it’s certainly progress.
Also, it’s not just biased cops (although there are plenty of stories of those) it’s biased juries. So basically, the part of Chapman’s argument you excerpted is crap.
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