John Boehner’s Immutable Characteristic

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2009

090225_Pol_BoehnerTNHouse Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t think sexual orientation should be included in the hate Crimes law because, he says, homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic. CBS News decided to follow up on that: contacted Boehner’s office to find out if the minority leader opposes all hate crimes legislation. The law as it now stands offers protections based on race, color, religion and national origin.

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner “supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics.”

Really? Religious identity is an immutable characteristic? Is Boehner saying that free will isn’t involved? What have all those missionaries been wasting their time for?


October 14th, 2009

Someone needs to tell all of those people who change their religion, or lose their religion altogether, that they can’t do that because it’s genetic and immutable.

Christopher Eberz

October 14th, 2009

I don’t even care to comment on one man’s (very likely under-informed) opinions on the issue of sexual orientation, how it works and whether or not its changeable.

I’d rather just point out, like TamaZeke did, the idea implied by his argument: if black or brown people could change the color of their skin, there’s no point in making race a protected class.

Way to go Boehner.


October 14th, 2009

Gender’s not immutable either, despite how much people stick their heads in the sand over it.


October 14th, 2009

BTW, is that atrocious tan immutable?


October 14th, 2009

The honorable Mr. Boehner’s ideals seem so at odds with mine. Maybe there is common ground. I hope so.


October 14th, 2009

If people would think before they open their mouths, they might see what kind of idiots they really are. I wonder how many of these people have gay people in their families and are really deniing that they exis too.
Boehner is like all homophobic’s. Just trying to deny someone that doesn’t think has no rights. What an a**.

Dan L

October 14th, 2009

I think you mean that Boehner thinks that “homosexuality is not an IMmutable characteristic”. Obviously, what you mean is clear from the context, but I had to read that two or three times before I figured that out :-).

Lindoro Almaviva

October 14th, 2009

Of course he is supporting protections based on religion. How else could you pass hate legislation and still be able to cry foul when it comes back to bite you ion the ass?


October 14th, 2009

Boehner’s remarks are exactly why I do not oppose this hate crimes bill, even though I have strong concerns about such legislation in general. I can respect a party taking a position that all hate crimes legislation are wrong for XYZ reasons but that’s not what I’ve been hearing from the GOP. Nope, this line is only brought up when it involves teh gheys. That to me is quite revealing about the true motives behind their opposition which have very little to do with differences on the Constitution. When I see Republicans put as strong an effort behind repealing ALL hate crimes laws because of a principled difference then I will be willing to listen to what they are saying. Right now, no thanks.

Oh and the President would be seriousl mistaken if he thinks signing this bill will lessen the well-deserved heat is undergoing. This is a crumb, nothing more. Thanks but let’s get to something more substantial. Repeal DADT and I would consider that to noteworthy.

Jim Burroway

October 14th, 2009

Dan L. Sorry for the confusion. I’ve corrected the text.


October 14th, 2009

This is the argument that needs to be thrown back in their face every time the phrase “immutable characteristic” passes their lips. If only “immutable characteristics” are worthy of protection, then religion – which is clearly a “lifestyle choice”, to use their parlance – deserves no protection. And if they feel that religious “lifestyle choice” is deserving of protection, then they have no grounds to protest two adults falling in love, whether it be choice or biology.


October 14th, 2009

Two things…

Boehner needs to see the video of Jack Price’s being beaten.

Then he needs to sit down and have a frank discussion with Mr. “the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality, it’s Holiness” Alan Chambers. I want to know if Boehner thinks homosexuality is changeable when the PRESIDENT OF EXODUS INTERNATIONAL admits he still struggles with sexual temptation.

Lynn David

October 15th, 2009

I like Levin’s ideas concerning why hate crimes are important.

Levin, the hate crimes expert at Northeastern, argued that hate crimes legislation doesn’t amount to a takeover by the “thought police” because hate speech remains protected under the first amendment.

He believes that hate crimes legislation can legitimately take intent into account – for example, homophobic slurs shouted by someone committing an assault.

“We’ve always used, in criminal law, what a defendant said in order to determine the severity of the punishment,” Levin said. “This is nothing new. If you by your words indicate that you’ve planned a murder, it will be regarded as first degree.”


October 15th, 2009

Never mind the obvious category of religion. Is he speaking from personal experience? Is he one of those claiming to be ‘ex-gay’? And what about transgenered people? Is he going to tell them the operation made no difference? That they are still the same sex they were born (despite the new body parts)? I think they should add stupidity to the law. Obviously, in his case, that is not an immutable trait.

Bill Ware

October 15th, 2009

Those who can hold two mutually exclusive beliefs to be true at the same time like their churches interpretation of the Bible vs. scientific reality can also believe that sexual orientation is immutable as far as hate crimes laws are concerned yet mutable when it comes to evangelizing. It’s an extreme form of compartmentalizing. When one is being considered, the other is walled off and vice versa. Since they are never considered at the same time, their mutually exclusive natures are never acknowledged.


October 15th, 2009

Sexuality is just like going to a tanning salon.

Richard W. Fitch

October 15th, 2009

I’ve never had a real high opinion regarding Boehner, but this finally puts him at the bottom of the list for me.

David Blakeslee

October 15th, 2009

Religion is not an immutable characteristic…

Neither is atheism…

Both are protected.

GLBT folks should be protected under the same rubric.

David Blakeslee

October 15th, 2009

@ KZ,

that would be a good conversation and we should encourage Exodus to have it…

More light…more light.

Ben in Oakland

October 15th, 2009

but wait. we’re told that everyone is really heterosexual, and that this cannot be changed, just un-holy-fied.

I’m confused.

David Blakeslee

October 15th, 2009

@ Ben


I am sure if I try to clear things up…we’ll all feel misunderstood and confused.


October 15th, 2009

political affiliation is not immutable either, and yet, though it is not specifically protected, the fact remains that the Constitution contains protections for political beliefs, though such guarantees as those found in the 1st amendment – which effectively prevents the government from suppressing unpopular political parties.

In essence, Boehner’s argument is that Constitutional protections only apply to immutable, intrinsic traits, and this would apply to free speech, petition to redress of grievances, and all other rights in the context of mutable characteristics.

For example, the Second Amendment could be waived for residents of a particular state, since residency in any particular state, or city, is a mutable characteristic. Under Boehner’s argument, we could completely ban guns in Texas, but not anywhere else, since gun owners could always move if they wanted to continue to own guns.

Additionally, Boehner has in essence argued that the Democrat majority can now set aside such Constitutional protections as they apply to political affiliation, and actively suppress the Republican party, since political affiliation is mutable.

In other words, Boehner has no clue what the Constitution actually achieves, and is clearly unfit for public office, especially since ignorance is not immutable.


October 15th, 2009

It is time we marched on every congressman who could make such as outrageous comment. If he had to be waiting on a bunch of us daily with signs and banners asking him to reconsider he might not like that. It is time we gathered our troops and march on all of the bastards and make this a huge issue!


October 15th, 2009

I’m with you on your point there, John. Whatever is or isn’t implemented, it needs to be the same across the board, but yet we’re not seeing a real push for that from the opposition, despite the principle they claim to be extolling.


October 15th, 2009

Many light skinned African-Americans have passed into “white” society. There have been several interesting books on this topic- The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White by Shirley Taylor Haizlip is a particularly interesting one. Based upon Boehner’s so-called logic, race should not be covered because certain individuals have changed their race.

Mark F.

October 17th, 2009

There are good arguments against a Federal hate crime laws (it is unconstitutional, it puts people in de facto double jeopardy, it won’t reduce violence, motive shouldn’t make a difference in punishment, etc.), but this argument is stupid.


October 18th, 2009

Mark, motive alreadymakes a difference. If you plan to kill someone, that is first degree murder. If it’s spontaneous, that is second degree murder. These two crimes have different punishments. Does the murder victim care? No, she’s dead either way. So that argument just doesn’t fly.

How is it unconstitutional? The only thing I can think of is you think it violates the mandate against “cruel & unusual punishment” but I hardly see anything cruel or unusual. What hate crimes enhancements are for is punishing a person for attempting to inspire fear into a community by committing a crime against an individual. Sure, every crie is horrible and all would-be murderers, rapists and muggers should be dealt with, but when someone kills another person *because the person is gay (or black, or Jewish etc)* and makes it known that that was in fact the reason for the crime, the goal is to inspire fear into others of the same class as the victim. It’s no longer just a crime against an individual, but against a group.

Double jeopardy? How so? That means a person can’t be tried again for the same crime. It says nothing about charging a person for multiple crimes stemming from a single incident. So charging a hate crime murder as opposed to a “regular” murder in no way subjects a person to double jeopardy, effectively or otherwise.


October 18th, 2009

Double jeopardy because as I understand it, if they fail to get a conviction, the option exists to take it to the federal level (since the assumption is that local bias and hate has prevented justice from being served).

Richard W. Fitch

October 18th, 2009

The issue of double jeopardy is very complex. I won’t even pretend to have a scholarly comment. There are, however, lots of good resources on the web to try and make sense of it. Burr, the very reason that it needs to be a federal issue seems to be that when a case is prosecuted under local/state jurisdiction, it can still be brought to trial at the federal level as a separate jurisdiction and not violate the 5th amendment protection.

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