Federal Hate Crimes Bill—What does this monstrosity have to do with Matthew Shepard?

I was watching this clip the other day, someone sent it to me and I just had to do a double take.  What is going on?

Why do some groups continue to politicize Matthew Shepard?  Where is the purpose?  The Federal Hate Crimes legislation, S. 909, is cited as the “Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.”  Why?  For sympathy points?

The two miserable human beings who killed Matthew Shepard are currently serving life sentences for their crimes – and rightfully so – so….can I ask the obvious question?  Why do we need “hate crimes” legislation?

When it comes to the government and regulation, “more isn’t better”, so why are we signing ourselves up for this bill anyway?  What’s the draw?  I don’t get it.

In addition to being unnecessary,  it’s also dangerous.

As often happens in government, there are unintended consequences to laws.  Perhaps in this case they are intended, I’m not sure.  Whatever the intent, it can’t be denied that producing special classes of people has nothing to do with “equal protection”.  In fact, just the opposite.

If a gay man slaps me, it’s a misdemeanor, maybe a fine.  Under this law as proposed, if I slap him back, it’s a felony hate crime.  How is that equal?  In fact according to some who are familiar with the text of the bill you don’t even have to touch someone for them to feel a hate crime has been committed.  It can be as flimsy as mere perception.  Orwellian thought crimes anyone?

Now I’m against all forms of hate crimes because it smacks of thought police and government religion, but even if you support hate crimes and special protections for minority classes, how can you possibly support the defense of pedophilia as one of those protected classes?

This bill has earned the nickname “Senate Bill S. 909, Pedophile Protection Act” because it specifically protects pedophilia and many other “philias” along with homosexuality and transgenderism.  In fact, when a legislator suggested adding a clarification to the bill to specify that pedophiles were not among the protected classes, it was flatly voted down.

Now that’s just bizarre.  Why protect the pedophiles but not religion and freedom of speech?

The Senate is expecting a final vote on this starting next week.  Call your Senators!  We’re facing an uphill battle on this one, which just boggles my mind.  S. 909 is a terrible bill, poorly written, dangerous, unnecessary and bad for everyone all around.

—Beetle Blogger

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21 Comments

  1. KingM said,

    May 15, 2009 at 5:35 am

    I’m not a big fan of hate crime legislation, with some exceptions. If you write a racial slur on someone’s house with the intent of intimidating, that seems a bigger crime than mere vandalism. If, however, you murder someone, does it matter if you do so because they’re, say, Chinese, because you want to rob them, or because you’re a homicidal jerk? Seems like the end result is the same.

  2. Euripides said,

    May 15, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Hate crime legislation is bad legislation precisely because it is imprecise. It has no equal application to all people, hence fails the test of the 14th Amendment. It also opens up the slippery slope to abuses and bb has pointed out. There are no guarantees of liberty with hate crime legislation, except the guarantee that it will be abused sometime in the future to apply crime laws unequally.

  3. Rob F said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

    If a gay man slaps me, it’s a misdemeanor, maybe a fine. Under this law as proposed, if I slap him back, it’s a felony hate crime. How is that equal? In fact according to some who are familiar with the text of the bill, you don’t even touch someone for them to feel a hate crime has been committed. It can be flimsy as mere perception. Orwellian thought crimes anyone?

    This is big time incorrect, BB. You’ve forgotten that you have the right to defend yourself if you are attacked. Also, the text of the bill (House Version, Senate version you are talking about refers to another bill for the definition of a hate crime. I found that definition and it goes as follows:

    In this section, `hate crime’ means a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime….

    In other words, fighting back against someone who is attacking you is not a hate crime because you did not select that person. Finally, the bill only applies to violent crimes:

    1‘(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person–

    […]

    ‘(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse [sic] weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person–

    So, in this case, I feel that the onus is rightfully on you to explain how thinking is a violent crime.

    And I’d like to point out that paraphilias and sexual orientations are completely different things.

  4. beetlebabee said,

    May 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Rob,

    What is the difference between me striking a gay man and a gay man striking me? I’m not talking about self defense, I’m talking about motivation. Everything about “hate” crimes laws hinges on the motivation, or “thoughts” behind the crime rather than the crime itself.

    Two people hit, one is guilty of a misdemeanor, one is guilty of a felony. Protected class status is all about creating inequality. What ever happened to all men are created equal?

  5. Rob F said,

    May 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    You said “if I slap him back”. The clear motivation here is self-defense.

  6. beetlebabee said,

    May 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Rob, ok, if the reciprocation is challenging to you, change the original scenario. Say I slap Perez Hilton, and he slaps Carrie Prejean. Same problem.

  7. beetlebabee said,

    May 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    As a side note, I doubt a slap fest would be considered self defense. What if before I slapped him I yelled, “You lousy gay activist scum! Take that!” and what if he yelled “You lousy woman blogger scum! Take this!”

    Wait, are women on the list of protected class statuses?

  8. Rob F said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Comment 6 is a straw man. If someone is slapped, that person (the slappee) slapping the person who slapped them (the slapper) is different from the slappee slapping a third party. In this case, both the slapper and the slappee would be charged with assault, with the third party being made to testify.

    And yes, gender is included amongst the protected categories. So in the case of the incident described in comment 7, both you and the other person would both be treated the same way.

  9. Rita Danning said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Yes but if it’s just left to the slap happy slappee versus the blog slapper, in two separate slapstick instances, would the straw man also be slapped? Who would be left to testify?

    It sounds to me like you’re evading the question which is motivation vs. action. Who cares what the motivation is if the action is the same shouldn’t the consequences also be the same? If not, why not?

  10. James R. said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    If women are on the list, and black people are on the protected list, also gay people, asian people, hispanic people, it sounds to me like it’s an anti white male hate crimes law. Everyone is elevated except old white men.

    Watch out Chairm! They’re after us!

  11. beetlebabee said,

    May 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Rob, actually, I believe it is your argument that presents a straw man.

    To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position

    By twisting this into a reciprocal action, you’ve attempted to change the nature of the argument without addressing the original contention.

    United States Code Title 18, Section 2, is evidence of how the legislation could be used against people who merely speak out against homosexuality. It states: Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

  12. Euripides said,

    May 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Everyone’s getting a little slap happy and forgetting the point: hate crime legislation is bogus. The ability to prove intent is bogus. The ability to defend intent is bogus. The law does indeed apply unequally. James R said it in jest, but the law by its nature applies to individuals unequally. That is a direct violation of the 14th Amendment.

    What do we do about it? Get rid of all hate crime legislation, of course and try crimes on evidence, not on some idealistic definition of what constitutes a hate crime.

  13. James R. said,

    May 15, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Slap happy, ha! Even Andrew Sullivan has come out against this joke of a law.

    “The real reason for hate crime laws is not the defense of human beings from crime. There are already laws against that – and Matthew Shepard’s murderers were successfully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in a state with no hate crimes law at the time,” wrote Andrew Sullivan in his “Daily Dish” column.

    “The real reason for the invention of hate crimes was a hard-left critique of conventional liberal justice and the emergence of special interest groups which need boutique legislation to raise funds for their large staffs and luxurious buildings,”

    That’s pretty damning coming from him.

  14. Michael said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    “If a gay man slaps me, it’s a misdemeanor, maybe a fine. ”

    Not exactly, assuming you are a Christian. Christians are already protected by hate crime legislation. If that gay man slapped you because you are a Chrisitian, that’s a hate crime.

  15. beetlebabee said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    So there’s a new dilemma, between two elevated groups, who’s hate crime wins out? Who has the most poison, most vile thoughts if there’s no old white guy to take the fall? And you guys defend this like it’s equal? I give up.

  16. Chairm said,

    May 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Heh, I am old but I am not what this law would consider “white”. Still, in the spirit of JFK said at the Berlin Wall, We are all old white men now.

  17. Cynthia L. said,

    May 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    #12–Euripides, An intent to commit the crime is a necessary element of virtually every crime (tax law might be an exception–darn IRS! :-)). Google the term Criminal Intent. According to your theory, there can be no difference in the law between accidentally killing someone and murdering them, because the law must be blind to, or make no attempt to discern, intent.

  18. Chairm said,

    May 19, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Cynthia, please elaborate on how one proves the intent to commit a “hate crime”?

    If you mean the intent to commit a crime, okay, but the topic is the overlaying of “hate” onto the intent to commit a crime.

    A coherent legal construction is lacking. Hence, it appears to be substantively bogus to prosecute and bogus to defend.

    Euripides can speak to his own comment himself. I am asking to the elaborate on your comment regarding the difference in two kinds of “intent”.

  19. Euripides said,

    May 19, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Cynthia:

    Chairm is correct. You have confused criminal intent with hate intent. You picked up on the word intent, but neglected to separate the two – criminal versus hate intent. Criminal intent is usually a straightforward prosecution. Hate intent runs into perceptions – not a solid basis for criminal law. (Google hate intent.) Proving hate intent lacks legal construction and therefore when Congress or legislatures pass hate crimes legislation, they pass bad law.

    There is such a thing as bad law in this country. Hate crime legislation creates an indefinable and often confusing extra layer on top of criminal law that makes it even more difficult for prosecutors to obtain a satisfactory verdict.

  20. Lucile said,

    July 20, 2009 at 5:40 am

    My husband was convicted of crimes of impropriety with a minor.
    I know him to not be a pedophile, yet he took a plea deal so that we could eventually be together.

    When he was released, he must register as sex offender, and is considered a pedophile by the state, reality be damned.

    This new law protects him and me from idiots who would find him via the internet and vandalize OUR home.

    The registration laws punish ME for loving him. This new law strikes a small balance. I am glad it passed!


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