The 3 Facts You Should Know about Hate Crime Laws

Rob Tisinai

August 20th, 2010

Maggie Gallagher recently vented — dishonestly — in a column decrying Judge Walker’s “judicial tyranny,” quoting Rush Limbaugh:

Rush Limbaugh had his finger on the truth. In the nearly half-hour speech he gave after the Proposition 8 ruling (“the American people are boiling over!”), Rush said that Walker “did not just slap down the will of 7 million voters. Those 7 million voters were put on trial — a kangaroo court where everything was stacked against them. … Those of you who voted for Prop 8 in California are guilty of hate crimes. You were thinking discrimination. That’s what this judge has said! Truly unprecedented.”

Rush is completely wrong, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-gay echo chamber. He might just have veered into over-the-top hyperbole, but now Maggie is repeating the lie in print. It suits her purpose: the big new goal of the National Organization for Marriage is to paint anti-gays as victims of intolerant homosexuals who persecute good, sweet, gentle Christians. If that means telling lies about hate crimes, then so be it. Fortunately, you can refute this sort of paranoia with 3 simple facts.

The 3 Facts


1. Hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal.

Hate crime laws merely provide enhanced penalties for actions traditionally recognized as crimes, but motivated by bias. That’s all. Don’t believe me? Ask the FBI:

[H]ate crimes are not separate, distinct crimes; instead, they are traditional offenses motivated by the offender’s bias (for example, an offender assaults a victim because of a bias against the victim’s race).

In other words, if it wasn’t a crime before the hate crime law was passed, then it’s still not a crime afterward.

Do you know what people are doing when they claim American hate crime laws will criminalize the Bible or send pastors to jail for preaching homosexuality is a sin? They’re lying. Or, at the very least, speaking from ignorance. They may give you examples from Canada or Sweden or other countries that don’t have a First Amendment, but they don’t apply to the US.

2. Homosexuals don’t get special protection from hate crime legislation.

The Matthew Shepard Act added sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes statute. It doesn’t specify homo or hetero. If a gay man assaults a straight man out of hatred for straights, he can be charged with a hate crime.

Now at some point an anti-gay will protest, “But that STILL gives gays special treatment, because no one assaults straights for being straight!” I hope I’m there, because it’ll be fun to watch him realize what he just said and try to suck those words back into his lungs.

3. Christians are protected by hate crime legislation.

Actually, that’s true for people of all religions. Been true for decades. The religion protection is exactly the same as the sexual orientation protection (at the federal level at least; many states have protection for religion but not sexual orientation). So when pastors say they worry about being prosecuted under hate crime laws for saying homosexuality is a sin? If that were true, I could be prosecuted for saying that the bigotry of Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggart is a sin. But neither of those things will happen because hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal.

Using these facts


It’s amazing how much crap you can refute with just these 3 facts.

Example 1

After the Carrie Prejean/Perez Hilton rumble, a US senator or representative said something like this (if anyone can find a reference I’d much appreciate it): If Perez Hilton had marched on stage and ripped Carrie’s crown off her head, she could have been charged with a hate crime for stating her religious view, but Hilton would have been charged with nothing.

Wrong!

Hate crimes don’t make anything illegal. It’s never been illegal to state your religious views, and the Matthew Shepard Act doesn’t change that. Carrie could not have been charged.

Christians are protected by hate crime legislation. If Hilton assaulted Prejean for her religious views, he could be charged with a hate crime. Ripping a tiara off someone’s head counts as assault, so it’s already illegal regardless of hate crime legislation, and the anti-Christian bias would qualify it as a hate crime.

Example 2

Senator Jim DeMint spread this blatant untruth about the Matthew Shepard Act:

So if someone in effect were to hurt a homosexual, or maybe not hire one, that would become a hate crime, which is punished more than if you just hurt someone else.

Wrong!

Homosexuals don’t get special protection from hate crime legislation. A bias-motivated crime would be treated no differently if the victim were attacked for being gay than if he or she was attacked for being straight.

Christians are protected by hate crime legislation. Hate crime legislation has been around for decades and has never been used to prosecute discriminatory hiring, whether it based on the applicants’ religion, race, or national origin. The Matthew Shepard Act does nothing to change that. And even if it did, you could apply the law in exactly the same way against employers who refuse to hire Christians. In fact, though, this is just a made-up scare tactic, so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Example 3

Representative Jim Pence said this:

Individual pastors who wish to preach out of Romans Chapter 1 about what the Bible teaches about homosexual behavior, they could be charged or be subject to intimidation for simply expressing a Biblical world view on the issue of homosexual behavior.

Wrong!

Hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal. It’s never been illegal to state your religious views, and the Matthew Shepard Act doesn’t change that.

That’ll do it. There are a few other things you might want to remember, like our Constitution’s First Amendment, which sets us apart from other countries and limits our government’s ability to restrict free speech. Also, the fact that the Matthew Shepard Act does have explicit (redundant and unnecessary) free speech protections built into it. Mostly, though, the 3 facts above will help you shoot down our opponents’ lies.

Happy hunting.

TampaZeke

August 20th, 2010

Hate crimes laws do one thing and one thing only. They provide for additional penalties for crimes that are acts of terrorism. Plain and simple.

Conservatives and homophobes are all for hate crimes laws when they are used against Muslims or when they’re used to protect Christians. Never mind that Christians are more likely to be perpetrators of hate crimes than they are to be victims of anti-Christian hate crimes.

Mark F.

August 20th, 2010

Well, first of all, what crimes are “love crimes?”

Secondly, under hate crimes laws, people who go around shooting people at random get less punishment than people who, say, target Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Thirdly, the notion that these laws “protect” anyone is unproven. Have “hate crime” rates gone down further than the general drop in crime rates since these laws were passed? These laws are a symptom of the “increase the punishment, lock em up and throw away the key mentality” which the left has now borrowed from the right.

In addition, these laws send the message that society considers some identical acts of violence worse than others and gives people an extra punishment not for the crime, but for the motivation behind the crime.

The anti-gay right is wrong about aspects of these laws, but is not wrong in opposing them.

L. Junius Brutus

August 20th, 2010

Just when you think that Maggie couldn’t sink any deeper. You know, there was a time when she was actually sensible, or at least appeared sensible.

Jason D

August 20th, 2010

Mark, really, so the following two scenarios are identical?

(A)
Graffitti on the side of a house that says “CHUCKY RULEZ!!!” with random burning pieces of wood in the yard.

(B)
Graffitti on the side of a house that says “ALL FAGS DIE” with burning pieces of wood in the yard constructed to look like two male figures holding hands

So you see both A, B as merely vandalism, and attempted arson/destruction of property and nothing more going on in B?

Cause I see intimidation/assault (crimes!) in B that aren’t there in example A.

Eric in Oakland

August 20th, 2010

Mark said: “In addition, these laws send the message that society considers some identical acts of violence worse than others and gives people an extra punishment not for the crime, but for the motivation behind the crime.”

That is silly. Motivation has always been central to deciding the severity of a crime. What do you think the difference between 1st degree murder and manslaughter is?

Also, the point behind hate crime laws is basically to target terrorism against minorities. If someone commits a crime against someone simply because of their religion, race, orientation, etc. then the crime impacts everyone in the target group and not just the incidental victim. When KKK groups hung black people and put the bodies on display, the crime was not just against the individual killed, but was also an act of terrorism against all blacks. Don’t you see the difference?

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2010

So if someone in effect were to hurt a homosexual.. that would become a hate crime, which is punished more than if you just hurt someone else.

DeMint misses the key ingredient: bias and targeting. If someone were to hurt a homosexual intentionally because that person was homosexual, then yes it would be punished more than if you just hurt someone else because of your own personal interaction.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of hate crimes enhancements in general, but I’m even less of a fan of liars.

Jason D

August 20th, 2010

Great post Rob, btw. I’ve always explained Hate crimes like this.

No crime, then no hate crime. Hate crimes are when someone commits 1 crime in such a way as to intimidate/assault the victim for their race/religion/sexual orientation/gender/expression. In other words they use 1 crime to commit another. The second one is always terrorism, intimidation, etc.

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2010

Zeke,

Conservatives and homophobes are all for hate crimes laws when they are used against Muslims or when they’re used to protect Christians.

I’m not sure that is true. For one thing, while I suppose it probably has happened, I don’t know for certain that hate crimes enhancements have ever been charged in an anti-Christian attack.

But, even assuming so, I don’t know that conservatives have ever been “all for” hate crimes laws in any circumstances. I don’t recall any time when they have been supported by conservatives.

TampaZeke

August 20th, 2010

Actually Timothy I’ve seen a number of politicians who oppose hate crimes laws for gays challenged on whether or not they believe hate crimes protections for religion should be rescinded as well. I have yet to see one state that protections for religious people should be taken away. They are usually very careful to not call for ending racial protections too.

Richard Rush

August 20th, 2010

Our job, as homos, is to remember that, when sexual orientation is added to hate crime laws, it undermines the sense of superiority and entitlement that Super Christians so richly deserve. After all, it’s harder for them to feel superior when inferior people have the same protections as they do. Everything is always all about THEM, and our job is to support that.

TampaZeke

August 20th, 2010

You’re right Timothy. Christians are seldom, if ever, victims of hate crimes based on their religion. If they WERE victimized as often as gay people are, I have not doubt that NONE of them would argue for ending hate crimes protections for the religious.

It’s kind of like your example of the straight person being attacked for being straight.

Timothy Kincaid

August 20th, 2010

Zeke,

I don’t doubt that they are careful to avoid calling for ending racial hate crimes (no one enjoys being called a racist) but I doubt they are champions for them either. It’s a lot easier screaming about Teh Geys to make your point than about racial minorities.

And, yeah, of course there are some who are raging hypocrites who want hate crimes for their favored groups but not for gay folk. There’s no denying that there are more than a few haters among conservatives.

Myself, I don’t like hate crime sentence enhancements much at all (I do support tracking). It may be just my perception, but I think that I’ve seen instances recently in which I doubt the crime was originally motivated by bigotry but that slurs got thrown and suddenly it was a hate crime.

In violent situations – fights or whatever – anything which can be said to hurt the other is said, whether or not it was part of the original conflict. So I’m a bit troubled by some of the categorization.

Nevertheless, if they are going to exist, then they should include sexual orientation as it is one of the largest categories that occur.

Tone

August 20th, 2010

Thank you, this is very useful information to have in my head when dealing with our detractors.

Jim

August 20th, 2010

I still think it odd that the anti-gay groups lie a lot.

If gay was so bad, it would be obvious.

It isn’t obvious. Gay people have proven their worth to society.

The anti-gay groups need to stop lying. They also should prove their worth to society.

Nathaniel

August 21st, 2010

This post so freakishly smacks anti-gay propaganda in the face.
Sadly, society today requires these laws to properly protect its citizens.
I live in Sweden and we have similar laws to protect religious rights, the press and freedom of speech. There was a pastor (named Ã…ke Green) who preached that homosexuality was a cancer on society. He was indicted for a hate crime and was first found guilty, but was later cleared in an appeal. This was simply because of religious freedoms and the right to free speach.
Anti-gay wackadoodles have nothing to fear from hate crime laws.

ZRAinSWVA

August 21st, 2010

The other thing that hate crime laws do is they raise the bar on what actions law enforcement must take in response to the crime.

The bill also: gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue”

Is this important? Absolutely.

My partners’ brother was bludgeoned to death by a homophobe with a tire iron. Law enforcement did not pursue the case aggressively at all, and as much indicated that the fag deserved it. Hate crime laws give us another avenue to justice.

TampaZeke

August 21st, 2010

ZRA, exactly. This is one of the main reasons hate crimes legislation is necessary. Too often racists and homophobes got away, and continue to get away, scott free simply because of the pervasive racism and homophobia in the communities in which the crimes took place and among the police/sheriffs’ departments charged with investigating and in the courts prosecuting them.

Priya Lynn

August 21st, 2010

Rob said “They may give you examples from Canada or Sweden or other countries that don’t have a First Amendment, but they don’t apply to the US.”.

And in those extremely rare examples all the people initially charged were eventually acquitted, so they have no examples from anywhere of people spreading hate actually being convicted of a hate crime. I note that in Canada Lifesitenews spews anti-gay hatred day after day, Bishop Henry in Calgary, and a host of others do the same thing and yet none of them has been charged with a hate crime for anti-gay speech.

Ben Mathis

August 23rd, 2010

I was under the impression the main reason for hate crimes is to give you a federal avenue to pursue justice when the local law enforcement is just as bigoted as the criminal and refuses to prosecute or handle the case competently.

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