Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hate Crimes History

CNN REPORTS on hate crime history made today:
"Hate crimes bill goes to Obama for signature." Read the news report here.

Read my reflections on that history making news report -- and some of the history behind it -- below:

We've been at this a LONG time. A quick check of the Episcopal Church archives showed that legislation supporting Hate Crimes Legislation by General Convention was passed in ... 1988.

In 1998 my friend -- and former Integrity President Michael Hopkins represented "us" at the funeral of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, about which he wrote:

There I came face to face with the hatred that killed Matthew in the guise of protestors from a church in Kansas led by a man named Fred Phelps. They held signs proclaiming Matthew was a "fag" who was even now burning in hell, and their verbal taunts were even more horrific. The only consolation was a group of good souls standing silently between them and those of us waiting in line in the cold outside the church.

In 2007 we lobbyed on Capitol Hill for the Matthew Shepard-LLEHCB (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Bill) knowing that even if it MADE it out of committee and onto the floor it would die on the desk of a president who had vowed to veto it. (There's me in D.C. -- along with a great cloud of HRC witnesses!)

Also in 2007, in her letter in support of the bill passed by the Senate today, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori included this quote from former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold:

"The fact that Matthew was an Episcopalian makes our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a particular responsibility to stand with gays and lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against them - from verbal to physical, and to encourage the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead to new appreciation for their presence in the life of our church, and the broader community."

Earlier this year, I said this in an Episcopal News interview: "It's critical to get support behind this because finally we have a chance to get a hate crimes bill that will include sexual orientation and gender identity," ... "This is the time to make it happen. We have energy behind it in the House and Senate and a White House that said it will support and sign it."

This WAS the time to make it happen.

WE made it happen.

Take a minute to rejoice and be glad in that.
And then get back to work making the next thing happen!



Athanasian said...

I've never understood the whole idea of "hate crimes" and this is another example of it. I've had a couple of occasions to discuss the question with friends who strongly support hate crime legislation, but I've always come away scratching my head.

I suppose my question is this: doesn't hate crime legislation make a mockery of the notion of "equal protection under the law"?

It's already illegal to beat someone to death with a baseball bat, for example. Where's the value in passing a special law against it in order to afford additional protection to a select group of citizens? Surely no one is credulous enough to believe that these laws will have any real deterrent effect, so what's the goal?

I'm a straight white male, Susan. Why should it be "more illegal" for someone to perpetrate violence against you than against me? Is my life worth less than yours in the eyes of the law?

Your puzzled reader,

Lapinbizarre said...

Finally. This is great news.

Sarah Beth ♥ said...


I am * so* happy that the bill protecting GLBT persons from hate crimes passed. As a straight ally, I have been praying for something such as this to happen for a long time.

God Bless.

MarkBrunson said...

A better question, Athanasian, would be why it bothers you so.

If there is equal protection under the law, do you think you'll be less safe?

Is there no difference in murder at all? Should the basis of the murder not be recognized?

You may see it as some sort of half-assed special rights - well, good, because gays and lesbians have been traditionally specially hated and targeted.

Why should a statement of special protection to the specially-targeted baffle or outrage a Christian?

Paul said...

I'm not an expert on this, but here's my take in response to Athanasian. Since he addresses the issue in general terms, I will use another example for more impact.

A violent crime against a black man (such as a lynching) is a crime against all blacks, not just a murder. It is meant to send a signal to an entire class. After a lynching, or a cross burning, the entire black community of that town would be affected, and that is the effect intended by the perpetrators. They are trying to "make an example" of the victims, so that others will fall in line.

I believe the details of the Matthew Shepherd case suggest the same kind of intent. Others can argue that case better than I can.


Brad ... You're done here. Move on.

Mitchell said...

Very impressive, You guys are probably where Black people where forty years ago or so...

I wonder just what the similarities are to the black civil rights movement and the LGBT civil rights movement?

uffda51 said...

Mitchell, some of the similarities include the fact that the most rabid opposition is again coming from many of the same (mostly straight white) people, the Bible is again being used to justify that opposition, both the black and LGBT communities have been and continue to be the target of hate crimes, and both groups are/were denied basic civil rights enjoyed by the (mostly straight white) majority.