Idiotic Lawyer Claims Lesbians Can’t Hate-Crime A Gay Man

While the LGBT community fares well in the acronym department, the reality is that we are, in many ways, deeply divided. It’s no secret that lesbians are the butt of gay men’s jokes, and that bisexual and transgender people are often written off as side notes to the gay rights movement.

But what happens when those pesky differences infiltrate a court of law?

The Boston Herald reports that three lesbians ganged up on a gay man at the Forest Hills train station, beating him up and yelling homophobic slurs at him.

“My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation,” says civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate. “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.”

While this lawyer sounds kind of dumb himself (just FYI, he’s not representing the lesbians or gay in the case)—calling hate-crime legislation “idiocy” is idiotic—his argument is certainly, um, interesting.

The thing here is that it’s not just three women beating up a man—the ladies called him a gay slur.

The victim says he pushed for hate-crime charges because he believes the act was “motivated as a crime because of his sexual orientation” since the three women “called him insulting homophobic slurs.”

Makes sense to us.

What do you guys think—do lesbians automatically get a pass on the whole “hate crime” thing when they beat a gay guy and call him a faggot, or is more about the intent of the crime and not about the sexual orientation of the perpetrator?  (We’re in the latter camp, if it wasn’t patently evident.)

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  • Lesbianreader

    If they yelled homophobic slurs as they whooped on him, then they are guilty of a hate crime. Being a lesbian does not give a free pass on homophobia.

    I have heard allot of hatred from my lesbian sisters over the years aimed at our gay brothers and it turns my stomach.

  • B

    If they attacked him because he was gay, they deserve a hate-crime enhancement. If he went out of his way to annoy them, and they attacked him and called him names as a result, it would not be a hate crime, just an assault. The DA would normally determine if someone provoked an attack in some way that would justify not charging the assailants. In the incident in question, the Boston Herald article claimed the guy bumped the alleged lesbians with his backpack (accidentally, I imagine), and there was a verbal exchange in which he used racial slurs (according to the assailants, I would guess). From the details in the article the women seemed to have overreacted to say the least.

    A hate crime enhancement is justified when a person is targeted or treated worse purely because of some characteristic (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) as the crime intimidates many people in the same group so that they do not feel safe walking down a street and, if common enough, puts everyone in that group at an elevated risk of being injured.

    Given the report in the Boston Herald, I don’t think there is enough information for us to guess if a hate crime charge is justified. The D.A., however, should have more to go on.

  • Rational Person

    I am rather appalled by Queerty’s opinion. It’s my go to gay news, so I’m shocked by the idiocy in this joke of an article. That lawyer is completely right. First of all, the US’s hate crime laws are horribly flawed. I actually think this might be the first piece I have ever read that claimed to the contrary. Secondly, of course a lesbian cannot commit a hate crime on a gay man on the basis of sexual orientation. They are both gay. A black person cannot commit a hate crime against a black person on the basis of skin color. That is a fact even if it is a Chapelle Show-esque scenario in which the assailant hates black people including himself for being black. Plus, it is the natural reaction for enraged people to scream whatever descriptive insults they can think of while attacking someone. It would not be at all surprising if one perfectly comfortable in his own skin gay man yelled “faggot” at another gay man he was attacking. Next time, as someone trying to be a journalist, actually think through your position and add a touch of professionalism before you publicly through your opinion to the universe.

  • Raven

    There are definitely some valid criticisms to be made about hate crime legislation in general, but playing the advocate for the moment, gay men are not the same thing as gay women. It’s a little like if a Chinese person attacked someone because they were Japanese; you can’t just say “but they’re both Asian!”

  • Cam

    “”While the LGBT community fares well in the acronym department, the reality is that we are, in many ways, deeply divided. It’s no secret that lesbians are the frequent butts of gay men’s jokes, and that bisexual and transgender people are often written off as side notes to the gay rights movement.””

    Interesting that in a story about a hate crime AGAINST a gay man you seem to catagorize everybody but gay men as victims. Lesbians are the but of jokes, bi’s and transgendered folks are sidenotes etc…

    I get that some in Queerty seem to have an odd agenda, but did the author not see the irony in his choice to express that here in this article?

  • Jperon

    What makes us think these women are even lesbians in the first place? I suspect the lawyer put them up to this.

    But, yes, lesbians can engage in hate crimes. All people can. It is moronic to say a lesbian can’t commit a hate crime against a gay man because they are “both gay” as it is to say a Mexican can’t commit a hate crime against a Black man because they are both minorities. When I lived in Africa people committed hate crimes against people because they were members of a different tribe, although all of them were equally as Africa as the other.

    I would even say a gay man can commit a hate crime against another gay man. I can show you tirades denouncing the “jewish plot” to control the world written by self-hating Jews. The head of a Nazi group in Chicago was found to be half-Jewish, and into black boys. People can hate people who are like themselves. In fact, there are days I don’t think there would be a conservative movement if it were for self-hating gays. Anyone remember Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Bob Baumann, etc.?

  • bisexual but not blind

    May I point out that this is likely a hate crime of black people against a white person?

  • isis

    what gay people gets for segregating…..admitt it some gay people are just idiots….like dan savage giving the T slur to transsexuals and calling us PROSTITUTES….or gay men segregating the affeminate gay men for being feminine…the segregation is our community is severe

  • Jennifer Marie Marcus

    Any person can commit a hate crime.If the facts of this case are correct these women should be charged accordingly.Side Bar: there is no consensus, or unanimity in the LGBT community:Gays slander lesbians,some lesbians despise transgender people,especially those who are M2F, many gays and lesbians dislike and/or distrust bi-sexuals. sadly, that is why it will take a long time before we obtain and secure our basic civil rights in this country.

  • SteveC

    I’ve always been of the opinion that a violent crime against anyone is a hate crime.

    I understand that the motivation is the reason that certain crimes are elevated to ‘hate crimes’, but the end result is the same.

    Isn’t a husband physically attacking his wife just as much of a hate crime as what happened in this case?

  • Cam

    @isis: Said…

    “what gay people gets for segregating…..admitt it some gay people are just idiots….like dan savage giving the T slur to transsexuals and calling us PROSTITUTES”

    You see Isis, this is the issue that people are having with the leaders in the Trans community. Here is an article that has nothing to do with transgenered and yet you use it as an excuse to come in and attack gay people.

    Just like the Trans community, on the day that marriage became legal in New York blasted out an article attacking gays and lesbians…couldn’t even leave them alone on that one special day.

    You claim you want the community to join in on your issues more but never miss a chance to attack and name call.

    They gay community refused to endorse the ENDA bill that excluded Trans protections ending hope of an ENDA bill for years. That was one of the things they did for the trans community. Have you don’t anything like that for gays? Or do you just attack?

  • MEJ

    Just read Camille Paglia for examples of anti-gay rhetoric, and name calling directed at gay men, by a lesbian.

  • Robert

    Speaking as a straight guy from Canada (where the laws are obviously different), this case raises some interesting questions. In my opinion, the sexual orientation of the perpetrator is irrelevant. Intent is what counts. That said, we’ve seen cases here where a criminal offense has taken place, preceded by what I would consider to to be hateful words (insert the epithet of your choice) and the police and Crown Attorney have declined to proceed because of an insufficient likelihood of success. The logic goes something like this: if you have a guy in a bar who beats up another guy over an argument over baseball statistics then it is a matter of assault. Now, same guy, same bar, same outcome but in the midst of the argument, with f-bombs flying back and forth, the aggressor calls the other guy a dirty ______ and then flattens him. What do we have here? Well it’s definitely assault but is it motivated by hate? It *could* be assumed (and therefore not beyond reasonable doubt) that the aggressor was reaching into his (limited?) vocabulary for hurtful words and this is what came out. Maybe that’s the case or maybe it isn’t, but that’s the hurdle that the prosecution has to clear. That’s why the prosecution looks for current and previous associations and previous behaviours. If the aggressor has a history of viloence coupled with homophobic statements then the case for intent is easier to build.

  • Jewed Law

    This is the problem with hate crime legislation: You have to prove someone’s intent, which is next to impossible. If a gay man assaults a straight man, is that a hate crime? No, of course not. Like #7 said, this incident might have been racial. Or perhaps these women were attempting to rob him. Who knows? Not you or me, which is why we can’t—and shouldn’t—apply the label of “hate” to something unless it was an egregious example of such. Should a black man be charged with a hate crime for using the word “cracker” in a domestic fight with his white boyfriend? Again: Of course not. I know this isn’t a popular sentiment on this site, but hate crime lgislation is downright dangerous.

  • Jakey

    @Rational Person: “First of all, the US’s hate crime laws are horribly flawed. I actually think this might be the first piece I have ever read that claimed to the contrary.”

    You must not read much, then. So how are they flawed? For all of that blah-blah-blah, you never bother explaining what the actual problem is with hate crime legislation. Not too great for someone sniffing over a lack of thought and professionalism.

  • Jakey

    @Jewed Law: Thanks for actually spelling it out: “This is the problem with hate crime legislation: You have to prove someone’s intent, which is next to impossible.”

    That’s nonsense, though. How do you think we figure out whether a homicide is manslaughter, second-degree murder, first-degree murder, etc.? Determining and proving intent is a major part of the justice system already. Hate crime laws aren’t some radical new idea, they’re a new category in the same old idea.

  • Jim Hlavac

    Hate crimes are terrible laws because it makes some people more special than others – -and it makes some people actually fit two categories: If I’m beaten for being a gay man, it’s “hate crime,” but if I’m beaten for being a white man, it’s not. And yet, well, I’m still beaten. What do I care the motives of the beaters? And, why is beating my hetero brother less a crime than me, his gay brother, being beaten? And it adds to the fire that gay men are asking for “special rights.” And I don’t like giving political opponents points to, um, beat me.

    Meanwhile, what do transgendered people have to do with gay folks? For as near as I can figure it, it’s a guy who says he’s in the wrong body, and needs to become a female, to get his birth certificate changed, so he can then find a man to marry as a women. Sounds hetero to me. Indeed, when the new women marries the man willing, how is this gay? All adding transgendered people to gay folks did was sink into the public mind that gay men are confused about our gender and want to be females. Egad, nothing could be farther from the truth; my erstwhile political leaders have now led me to constantly say I’m not gender confused and awaiting surgery. Thanks politicos, for nothing. Oh, sure, gay bars were more accepting of transgendered people, maybe, (well, no, for I don’t even know any transgendered people, only gay men,) but they’re not gay; they are heteros in the wrong body.

    And bisexuals? Hahaha! Gay men hiding behind a woman, for the convenience of it. The Kinsey scale nonsense is just that — nonsense. If it were remotely true we’d at least have a gay man in a relationship with a man who occasionally cheated on his mate with a women, and such never seems to be. It only seems to be married men or men with long time girl friends who cheat on their women, by dating a guy, while pretending to be “Straight” acting, until you get them into bed. Show me the bisexual bar, or bisexual gathering place. There are none.

  • Jewed Law

    @Jakey: I will respectfully disagree. Intent is provable in a murder case. A prosecutor can provide evidence that proves a defendant intended to kill before the fact; it would be very difficult to prove an individual’s intent prior to a fight, unless it was an unprovoked attack, and even then you have to have something that proves this individual premeditated his actions. Unless they set out with the intent of attacking and injuring a gay man, then this isn’t a hate crime.

    Quick example of the idiocy of “hate crimes”:
    About a month ago, two men were in court for assaulting one another. One had cut in line in front of the other, and they got into a scuffle. One was black, and one was white, and in the midst of the fracas they both began using racial epithets on each other, so naturally, both were charged with hate crimes. So what did the judge do? Exactly what he should have: Dismissed both cases and ordered them into anger management. No hate involved.

    @Jim Hlavac: I concur with every word you said. LGBT is waaaaay too inclusive of too many freakshows, none of which I will ever associate with. I was OK with using “gay and lesbian” instead of just “gay,” but I don’t want to be associated with trannies. They and I are worlds apart. Which is why these days I just say I’m a ‘mo. Pretty much says it all.

  • Tommy

    @Jim Hlavac: You’re completely misunderstanding hate crime laws. Hate crimes don’t make any group more special than another. They protect any person who is assaulted for being in a group and thus protects that whole group. It’s still a hate crime if you are white and you are beaten by some radical black person who hates you because you are white. Conversely, if you are gay and you are beaten up by a straight person who just wants to rob you and doesn’t know or care what your sexual orientation is it’s not a hate crime. It’s not the catergory of the victim that counts, but the intent behind it. Also for example, if someone who is actually straight gets beat up because the perpetrator thinks they’re gay even though they’re not, that is still a hate crime.
    Not going to even touch the misconceptions you have about transgender or bisexual people. But I have heard of bisexuals in relationships with other men who have cheated on them with women. I think you need to get out more! If they’re more bisexuals in heterosexual relationships cheating with guys, it’s because of homophobia in society that forces them into those kind of relationships instead of allowing them to acknowledge their true bisexuality. Bisexuals are part of our community because they also are affected by homophobia.

  • Clockwork

    In the future:
    “Everyone will be guilty of hate for fifteen minutes”

  • B

    No. 19 · Tommy wrote, “Also for example, if someone who is actually straight gets beat up because the perpetrator thinks they’re gay even though they’re not, that is still a hate crime.”

    Just to give a concrete example, there was an incident some years ago in San Francisco where a straight guy was assaulted just outside a bar. The perpetrators thought he was gay because they thought he came out of the bar. In fact, he lived in an apartment above or adjacent to the bar and had just come out of the door leading to his apartment.

    I don’t know if they caught the creeps, but it would certainly qualify as a hate crime. They didn’t rob him and there was no prior argument or other incident, and they did shout homophobic slurs.

    He, BTW, is not the only victim – if it becomes known that you’d risk being assaulted just for living in the apartment he was renting, the landlord would be hurt as well due to a lack of tenants willing to live there. Hate crimes harm more than the victim of the underlying crime, which rationally justifies an enhanced penalty.

  • Matthew

    As a guy who has lived in both Boston and San Francisco I can tell you — regardless of where you are in the country — if you act like a jerk, you will be treated like one.

    The guy was a rude prick and pushed himself through, didn’t excuse himself, and acted like he was better than them. He was asking for it — and it’s only natural that they returned the favor.

    I don’t buy the “hate crime” allegation.

    This incident on the T in “J.P.” is ALMOST IDENTICAL to an incident that happened in San Francisco last year.

    A guy was getting off the MUNI train at Church Street, hit another guy with his backpack, didn’t excuse himself, and got beat on and called homophobic names.

    Two different cities — same incident… Moral of the story : don’t be a rude jerk, apologize when you are wrong, and excuse yourself when you hit someone.

    No sympathy here…

  • Rick

    People seem to not understand what constitutes a hate crime. A hate crime is an attack on a person because of a perceived group that they belong to and has nothing to do with the individual. It is an attack against the whole group of people. It’s when someone decides they just want to beat up a f*g. People who do this are a threat to society and deserve a greater punishment than your normal thug.

  • Chris

    The women claim he used racial slurs; he claims he did not. He claims they used anti-gay slurs; they claim they did not. Neither version of the story seems to start with someone looking to hurt someone specifically because he was gay or perceived to be gay. It may have escalated because they perceived him to be gay and they dislike gay men, or because he was white and they dislike white people, or because he used racial slurs and they dislike racial slurs, or maybe just because they are a bunch of violent morons. I’m going for the latter.

    As pointed out above, the purpose of hate crime legislation is not to give gays extra protection when they get into a pointless scuffle on the subway. The purpose of hate crime legislation is to discourage the institution of gay bashing because a society that does not take gay bashing seriously is undesirable. I’m not really seeing much evidence of lesbians sitting around the sorority house talking about how queers deserve to be beat up. That’s what the hate crime laws are aiming at.

  • Let's get this straight

    @Jewed Law: Jewed Law wrote “You have to prove someone’s intent, which is next to impossible.”

    Of course, prosecutors prove intent in all sorts of crimes in state and federal courts every day. Intent is often an element of a crime that prosecutors are required to prove to win a conviction.

    While hate crime laws vary somewhat from state to state, I am not aware of any hate crime law that says only white people can be guilty of committing a hate crime against black people or only straight people can be guilty of committing against gay people or gay people can never be guilty of committing a hate crime against other gay people.

    What matters is the state of mind of the defendant so, here in New York City, Anthony Fortunato, a young man who admitted to having sex with other men and said he might be gay or bisexual, was guilty of a hate crime in the killing of Michael Sandy, a gay man, because Fortunato and his partners specifically selected a gay man to rob and they caused his death in the course of that robbery.

    Similarly, Keith Phoenix was found guilty of a hate crime, an anti-gay hate crime, because when he saw Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay, two straight brothers, walking down a Brooklyn street, he mistook them for a gay couple because they were huddled together to stay warm. Phoenix crushed Jose’s skull with a baseball bat.

    It is the state of mind of the defendant that controls whether or not a hate crime was committed. Most often, that state of mind is discerned by the words the defendant uses before, during, and/or after the crime.

  • Let's get this straight

    @Jim Hlavac: Jim Hlavac wrote “Hate crimes are terrible laws because it makes some people more special than others.”

    Hate crime laws specify their protected classes, such as race. So everyone who has a race is protected. In other words, everyone. Some hate crime laws include sexual orientation. So everyone who has a sexual orientation is protected. In other words, everyone. And so on and so forth.

    That members of certain groups are more often the victims of hate crimes is not evidence that those groups have special protections. It is evidence that those groups confront prejudice and its attendant violence more than others.

  • Clockwork

    Hate crime laws are actually speech crimes.

    You get more time for what you’re saying not what your doing.

    If you say nothing with hate in your head, the crime will be considered a lesser offense.

  • Hate Crime Laws Are Stupid

    Basically, hate crime laws say that if someone seriously injured my disabled old mom because she’s was wearing the jersey of an opposing sports team, that’s less of a crime than taking a swing at me while calling me a “faggot.”

  • Keith

    What watching the clip really showed me is that even in a court of law the attorneys will say “faggot” all the want. But when it gets to the racial and gender slurs they say “n-word” and “b-word”. This is an unacceptable double (or triple) standard.

  • ek

    If these women really are lesbians, then I am ashamed of them. I love my gay brothers and bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Not just because they are gay of course, but I would never consider calling anybody the gay F-bomb especially since it has been used against me.

  • ousslander

    @Matthew: rudeness is an excuse to assault someone just like that slut wearing a miniskirt is asking to be raped?

    either way hate crimes are thought crimes. I don’t care why you attacked me just that you are punished. Should a person be punished more for adding faggot while he swings the hammer?

  • cwm

    @Raven: good point. anyone who claims racism had nothing to do with the rape of Nanking–because “oh, there’s no real difference between Japanese and Chinese people–is ignorant, and probably also a racist.

  • cwm

    @MEJ: this I don’t get. Paglia is primarily an art critic/postmodern “critical theory” type (albeit rather more gossipy than many in that field). she’s a mostly-anti-feminist lesbian whose writing is dominated by assertions that men–especially gay men–are responsible for almost all of the greatest achievements in all of cultural history.

    she’s also unapologetically narcissistic and fond of stirring up controversy; I recall the time she said publicly, “I am solely responsible for the return of beauty in art.” she’s also parroted the domineering mother + “absent” father + sissy boy = gay stereotype: but in such a knowing and supercilious manner, you could hardly get angry about it (unless you have zero sense of humor).

    for someone who “hates” gay men, Paglia expends a lot of ink praising us.

  • Let's get this straight

    @Clockwork: No, what was said by the defendant when the crime was committed is evidence that shows that defendant’s state of mind.

    There is nothing unusual in criminal law about having different penalties for crimes that produce the same result, but the defendants’ states of mind are different. For example, in murder versus manslaughter somebody is dead, but in murder the intent was to kill while a defendant acted recklessly when she committed manslaughter.

    We deem an assault that is motivated by bias to be more serious than an assault that is motivated by someone stealing your parking space. What’s wrong with that?

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