Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Response Number One: Hate Crime Laws

I posted the other day soliciting opinions regarding some current issues - basically, hate crime laws and gay marriage. I didn't get much feedback ... (I know, I've said it before, I get much more feedback when I post pretty pictures and write about myself ... ), but I mentioned that I would post some of my opinions as well.

I'll try to be relatively brief. No, really.

Hate crimes: Honestly, I'm not completely grounded in where I stand on this, which is why I was hoping to get others' opinions. Now, the way current hate crimes work, if a physical attack on another person is determined to be motivated by hatred or bigotry toward a protected group of members of our society (such as a certain race, religion, disability, etc.), then the crime is deemed a more serious offense when assigning punishment - mostly because the effect of the crime is not against only a single individual, but a larger group of citizens. The current debate is whether or not sexual orientation should be added to those groups currently protected under this legislation. My opinion? IT'S ABOUT TIME!!!! Why shouldn't gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people be protected this way? (And please, don't EVEN bring up the word "choice" in any dissenting views. That's an ignorant argument used almost exclusively by heterosexuals and self-hating "ex-gays" and bears little to no relevance to what I like to call Reality). Having someone screaming "I hate fags!" as he's bashing in my skull would be no different than me screaming "I hate Lutherans!" while bashing in a Lutheran's skull. The crime is against a group, with no thought of that individual as a human being - they just happen to be the representative of said group who was available to receive the brunt of the criminal's ignorance and bigotry. If the law is going to protect religious groups, than it is going to protect sexual minorities as well. That should, in a rational world, be the end of discussion.

So where is my indecisiveness about hate crime laws? Well, I've been reading a lot of opinions lately about this, and the one comment I received from Fantasy Writer Guy mentions the doubt that the increased punishment will make a difference, and that the increased burden on our already overwhelmed correctional institutions would need to be offset somehow. Good point. Would we decrease the punishment allowance for other crimes (I don't know - possession of marijuana)? And who would decide what crimes are a lesser evil than the hate crimes? Do we need hate crime legislation at all - meaning, is it really worth it? (Interesting post on this today by my friend KipEsquire). Does it deter other hate crimes? Does it actually make a potential skull-basher stop and think about his or her actions and bigotry? Does it gradually change and evolve the opinions of our society by educating us as a community about the wrongness of such hatred? Is hate crime legislation the proper way to do that?

Have I asked enough questions?


One last thought. Regarding the (mostly religious) right-wing opposition to adding sexual orientation to current hate crime laws: It does not curtail freedom of speech. It is not an attack on Christianity or any other religion. It is not an affront to morality. Read the actual legislation as it exists now. It is designed to protect everybody - including you. I don't want your right to talk about how much you hate me to be curtailed any more than I want my right to speak of my displeasure with you to be withdrawn. This isn't about that. It's about actual physical attacks and explicit threats of such. Don't turn and spin and distort it to be more than it is. Just don't.


KipEsquire said...

"Does it deter other hate crimes? Does it actually make a potential skull-basher stop and think about his or her actions and bigotry?"

Deterrence is not the only function of criminal justice -- retributivism ("expressing society's outrage") is another.

Cheers... :-)

john said...

I think any violent crime against another human being is horrific.

I think hate crimes are the worse because they are driven by ignorance and hatred.

My new blog address:

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Sorry, I had to edit my comment, left something important out. So, here is my opinion. Since you asked ;-)

I read on another blog (I can't remember whose) an opinion diminishing the importance of anti hate crime legislation for LGBTs. First of all, when we exclude ourselves from it, we diminish it for all other groups who rightfully deserve to be protected. Second, hate crime legislation should protect any group who has historically been oppressed. Something no one ever talks about is the history of persecution against gays in western society. We have been burned at the stake, (incidentally, this might be where the term "faggot" comes from--a bundle of sticks used for kindling), lynched, sent to the gas chambers along side Jews, imprisoned and raided on a regular basis just for dancing! This was all done legitimately under the laws of those times. As a group who has historically suffered this kind of unfair treatment, we deserve protection. It's society's way for paying us our debt for a history of persecution. Period. End of story. Whether it deters the crimes or not is immaterial.

It's not the same for Lutherans (or most other Christians) who have historically not suffered the same kind of persecution and certainly never had any laws punishing them for their religious beliefs. People seem to forget that white christians still enjoy the most freedoms in this country and for every complaint of "reverse prejudice," there are probably ten cases at least of legitimate prejudice.

Matt said...

Kip, excellent point (Michael made this too) about what the purposes of criminal punishment are/can be. That may be the part I was ignoring, thanks for reminding me.

Michael, thanks for your great comment, too (and yes, I asked!). While I don't generally agree with the restitution idea, it is painfully true that the GLBT community has long been persecuted (well before there was a "GLBT community"). Agreed - we should be equally protected under this law. I will never understand how people say we would end up having "special" rights.

"Whether it deters the crimes or not is immaterial." Exactly the thought I needed to hear.

Thanks all of you for your comments - this is what I wanted! :)

CondoBlogger said...

I can see the importance of identifying a crime as one of unfounded hatred, just to point out the ignorance. BUT, I don't see how making the sentence more severe makes any sense.

Murder is murder, rape is rape, stealing is stealing, vandalism is vandalism....