As an opponent of “Hate Crimes” legislation, I often cringe when I read how some who share this view attempt justify their opposition. Like the hysterical comments of gay marriage supporters, their arguments make it more difficult to convince others of the merits of their position.
I mean, c’mon assuming that legislation designed to enhance penalties for violent acts based upon the class of the victim being used to punish a socially conservative pastor who offers his interpretation of Scripture without assaulting anyone? Seems a wee bit paranoid.
On Friday, conservative blogger Ed Morrissey took Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx to task for calling it a “hoax” to name the Hate Crimes bill in the House for Matthew Shephard. He found her contention “absurd on two levels,” the second being:
. . . that even if one accepted that this particular case involved no animus against gays, undeniably people commit crimes based on that animus as well as a range of others. The animus exists, and can be seen in a variety of criminal and non-criminal acts. The question, which Foxx eclipsed with this sorry performance, is whether we want to start criminalizing thoughts as well as actions.
While understanding that anti-gay animus does exist and oftentimes leads to criminal acts, Morrissey believes Hate Crimes law do not pass constitutional muster. He quotes Jazz Shaw who writes that when you attach “greater guilt to certain parties for committing the same crimes, based on nothing more than what they were thinking at the time and the ‘class’of citizens who were the victims, then you are providing unequal protection of the laws.”
I agree with Ed who finds this incompatible with the Fourteenth Amendment: “Creating classes of victims means creating classes of citizenry.”
Just because Congresswoman Foxx made a bone-headed comment (for which she should apologize*) doesn’t mean that she was wrong to oppose this legislation. We need acknowledge that some people do target minorities for violence on account of their difference. And we need make sure that those who do so are punished accordingly. Just as we punish those who commit violent acts for another reasons.
Let’s make sure to punish the perpretators for the degree of violence of the crime, but not their thought process.
*UPDATE: Since writing this, I learned that she has (apologized).