Today is my sweetie's birthday, so I plan to have a All Birthday All Day Friday. Before the festivities commence, however, I did want to elevate the following comment on my hate crimes news post yesterday for more public consumption.
I'm receiving the question as a well intentioned search for information -- and I'm also thinking with the president about to sign the bill the Senate passed yesterday in to law, you may get some of the same quesitons from those who still don't "get" why we need hate crimes legislation.
Q. 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?
A. All lives are equally valuable but, unfortunately, all lives are not equally valued. That sad reality was recognized decades ago when hate crimes leglistation was enacted to protect "equally protected" Americans who were "unequally targeted" by violent crimes solely because of their race. Perhaps you missed it when I wrote about some of these questions a couple of weeks ago. In either case, here you go again:
A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator of the crime intentionally selects the victim because of who the victim is. Hate crimes rend the fabric of our society and fragment communities because they target an entire community or group of people, not just the individual victim. However, in most cases, current law prevents the federal government from assisting state and local authorities.
What is the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act / Matthew Shepard Act?
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA)/Matthew Shepard Act gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The Act provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated, violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury. The LLEHCPA also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers or assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes.
[All the above from the HRC website.]
Hate crime laws are ALREADY on the books. This legislation is NOT about prioritizing one kind of violence over another -- it is about giving LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS the tools they need to call on the Department of Justice for assitance in investigating and prosecuting crimes of violence on victims targeted because of who they are. Those laws have been on the books for decades for race based hate crimes. And now they're being expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
And that should be good news for ANYONE who believes in liberty and justice for all -- OR in protecting the dignity of every human being.
Thanks for asking. Have a great day!