Sunday, October 11, 2009

that word you're using...

This week, right before everyone was marching on Washington and waving their rainbow flags, legislation was passed in the House expanding the definition of hate crimes to include attacks based on sexual and gender identity.

A pretty sentiment but completely hypocritical of those who claim to be concerned with "equality."

"Look me in the eye and tell me I am less of a person than you are," Christine Quinn, the first openly lesbian speaker of the New York City Council, said yesterday.

Actually, if this legislation gets passed, it would mean that Ms. Quinn is somehow more of a person than me.

For example, imagine both Ms. Quinn and I are both victims of similar crimes - perhaps vicious assaults in which we suffer comparable bodily harm. During the course of these crimes, the attackers repeatedly state their hate for us - in my case, hatred for white women (or short people, or Irish-American librarians, or whatever); and in Ms. Quinn's, lesbians. There are witnesses and both perpetrators are apprehended.

The only real difference will be the punishment the criminals receive.

Because she is part of a special minority, Ms. Quinn's beating would be treated as if it was worse than mine and the guilty party would be sentenced accordingly with a longer time in jail.

Someone please explain this "equality" to me thing again.

Now, I'm in favor of gay marriage* and I'm proud of those who participated in what has been called the "Big Gay March" in our Capitol this past weekend. I believe everyone should be free to marry the person who they love, regardless of gender. But by clinging to identity politics and asking for the passage of hate crime legislation in the same breath as "equal rights" the gay community is only separating itself further from the mainstream they are asking to be welcomed into. It causes people who are anti-gay marriage to believe (and perhaps rightly so) that "equal" won't be equal at all, that special groups will get special treatment or privileges under the law.

And while we're on the subject...this sort of thing?

Not going to help the cause much either. Just sayin'.

*actually, I'm in favor of the government getting out of the marriage business altogether, but that's a blogpost for another day


SpeakerTweaker said...

Hate crimes. This is a point of great stress for me. I share the same view on the subject as you. Why would a heinous assault on me for no specific reason at all get a lower sentence for the bad guy than the same act committed on a homosexual for being homosexual (other than the guy that attempts it on me gets free multiple high-speed body piercings)?

But I go a step further. The hate crime attachment is just a way of tacking on some more minimum sentence. Here's an idea. Start sentencing folks properly and quit letting folks out years ahead of parole eligibility. The need for additional sentencing becomes moot if felony assault gets a fitting sentence as opposed to getting knocked down to a weak-@$$ misdemeanor with some probation and a few days of picking up trash on the highway.


Tom said...

they want EXTRA rights and a fool proof teflon coating like the race card.

They have exactly the same right currently, they can marry the same segment of the population I can...being a man that means a woman. Not good enough for them, they demand to be allowed something more. I'm with you, .gov out of marriage. Marriage remains what it has been at the church and .gov issues "civil unions" or whatever they want to call them OR the gays get "garriage"

Lots of folks hate white people, but where are the prosecutions for those hate crimes?

As for the picture, they just didn't get the correct marching orders. I wonder if they still got paid.

The Old Man said...

Until there is a hate crime category for crimes against "differently-abled" librarians, I've got your six. And beyond that too, actually.... But that's just me...

Jeffrey Quick said...

A Conservative Lesbian has had some interesting coverage on this, and on the O-bot's desire to throw gays under the bus. Her point is that gays should be natural supporters of conservatism, but conservatives and gays tend to speak a different language and talk right past each other.

tjbbpgobIII said...

I don't even think they will have to be cursed as a gay or lesbian, I think it will be an automatic charge if you were to harm one. I am sure you can just look at them in a condesending manner and be charged with a crime.

markofafreeman said...

jdege said...

"Why would a heinous assault on me for no specific reason at all get a lower sentence for the bad guy than the same act committed on a homosexual for being homosexual (other than the guy that attempts it on me gets free multiple high-speed body piercings)?"

There have been times in the past where certain crimes, though existing on the books, were simply not prosecuted when the victims were members of certain groups. If that were the case, for Congress to pass legislation to allow crimes against those groups to be prosecuted in federal courts would not only be reasonable, it would be proper.

I am not at all certain that this is the case, with respect to this legislation. I'm unaware of attacks on gays not being prosecuted, because they were gay. In how many of the examples that have been held up as reasons for this legislation were the perpetrators not prosecuted?

In the Matthew Shepard case, for example, the two perpetrators each received life in prison. I don't see how there was any miscarriage of justice, there.

Chrystoph said...

I rather favor Robert Heinlein's methods in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Friday.

In both, you make up a marriage that suits you, and it is a binding legal contract. If you need to modify the contract, you go to the court and do so.

You want to a poly(anything), that is between you and your spouses. You want a lesbian household, you go to the court (insert other marriage authority if you prefer) and register it.

Of course, this makes for other tax issues, as your marriage is really a business.

Robert said...

Here in North Carolina, your attacker would get charged with "assault on a female" which carries a harder punishment than regular assault. It's like the NC government thinks women are less than equal to men and deserve special treatment or something.

elmo_iscariot said...

Yup. Marriage equality: with ya a hunnit puhcent. "Hate crimes" laws: counterproductive. "Hate speech" laws: hell no.

...they can marry the same segment of the population I can...being a man that means a woman. Not good enough for them, they demand to be allowed something more.

You'd be fine, then, with a law forbidding all religion but Islam? After all, you'd have exactly the same right to worship Allah and his blessed prophet as anybody else. It'd be pretty selfish of you to demand special rights beyond that.

Rick R. said...


There IS a difference, however.

Religious freedom is an ennumerated right.

Marriage is a contractual arrangement that happens to be registered with the state, and receives no more Constitutional protection than any other contract registered with the state.

May I suggest another example, one which will actually make your point?

elmo_iscariot said...

I don't believe we were discussing whether any Constitutional rights were involved. We were discussing whether two people are fundamentally being treated equally when they're offered the same thing. This is clearly untrue in plenty of cases, like offering a Christian a Koran and prayer mat and insisting he and the Muslim have equal religious rights; offering penicillin (which I'm deathly allergic to) to me and to somebody with no allergy and saying we've recieved equal health benefits; and offering a gay man a wife and saying he's being given marriage rights equal to those we give straight people.

It's a fact that, at present, gay people aren't treated equally under US law. Rational discussion can question whether gay people _should_ be protected equally (we accept that different groups can be treated differently in some cases), but denying that there's an inequality is either foolish or disingenuous.

Whether the issue's is governed by the Bill of Rights, the Full Faith and Credit clause, a state constitution, or simple human decency is largely irrelevant to this particular point.

Willorith said...

On the surface, the crime of battery, and the hate crime of battery, may appear to be the same crime with different punishments based on who the victim is. However, the hate crime of battery involves the intent to not only batter the direct victim, but to also intimidate all other members of the victim's group.
This is a fundamental difference.

The concept of intent is a factor throughout American criminal law. Juries puzzle out the intent of killers every day when they decide on 1st degree murder or manslaughter. They can puzzle it out in the case of hate crimes also.

In the good old days we all cherish so much, there was a quaint old saying: "Nigger don't let the sun set on your ass in this town." It wasn't just a fun little joke. Beatings with axe handles and tire irons. Lynchings, shootings, and rapes all took place for the purpose of keeping the colored folks in line. There exist still today towns that black people will not go because of the thoroughness of the intimidation administered decades ago in the name of controlling the darkies.

Those beatings and murders were undeniably hate crimes and none among you could present an argument that the crimes committed were not directed at the individual with the intent of intimidating the entire group.

The sticky part comes when we create protected groups. The hate laws should be crafted such that any crime directed against an individual with the intent of intimidating the group can be prosecuted as "with hateful intent" upgrading the crime to a higher level.

A scenario to consider:
Upon observing a smelly wino wanking in the library, Breda may warn him sternly to pull up his pants and exit the library immediately! At which point the street bum may turn full on to our heroine and state clearly "You are a cute librarian. I hate all cute librarians. Any cute librarians that come around here will get some of this." Jiggling his smegma encrusted willy to emphasize the depth of his feelings. This establishes the crime of lewd conduct with the added bonus of with hateful intent. However, in this instance, the verbalized threat to rape and the action towards that crime, partial disrobing, would clearly make deadly force in self defense appropriate. Perhaps a large book case could be arranged so that it would fall on him.

Holly said...

I think hate crime legislation only gets passed because opposing it sounds so bad--what, do you like hate crimes, huh? It's the same reason crazy laws get passed regarding sex offenders--it's politically risky to argue for fair treatment of reprehensible criminals, and the payoff (you'll get the sex offender vote for sure!) is rather small.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

jdege said: "I'm unaware of attacks on gays not being prosecuted, because they were gay. In how many of the examples that have been held up as reasons for this legislation were the perpetrators not prosecuted?"

One prominent example is Brandon Teena, a M2F transsexual. He was raped and beaten, and "warned" by the perpetrators not to file a police report. He did anyway. The Sheriff was more interested in the fact that he was a transsexual than in the crime itself. A rape kit taken at the hospital was "lost", and the Sheriff didn't charge anybody due to "lack of evidence". The perpetrators learned of the report, hunted him down, and murdered him and his roommates. Neither perpetrator was charged with the rape until they were charged with murder. The movie "Boys Don't Cry" is based on his murder.

Matthew Shepard was beaten and raped a few years before his murder. I don't know if there was ever any prosecution in that case.

Willorith hits the nail on the head - most actual hate crimes have the additional purpose of intimidating an entire class of people. It's not just assault or rape, it's also a specific form of terrorism.

One benefit (and the most important one, as far as I'm concerned), is that most hate crime laws create a doorway for non-local law enforcement to assume jurisdiction. Like what happened with Brandon Teena, there are still areas where the local LEOs won't bother investigating or prosecuting crimes against "fags". In many jurisdictions, judges won't give more than a slap on the wrist, if that, for crimes against LGBT people. These laws let "outsiders", who may not have the same bias, come in and investigate despite the locals.

I'll be honest. Hate crime statutes do make me uncomfortable, for the same reason you gave, Breda - what makes a crime against me worse than the same crime against you, just because I'm not straight? Unfortunately, there are other reasons these laws are needed - though I would love to see an automatic "sunset" provision, set for, say, 20 years or so.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Oops, typo! Brandon Teena was F2M (female to male) transsexual, not M2F.

Evyl Robot said...

Well Breda, it's like affirmative action for victims!

Ziggy said...

Hi Breda!

Title 18 USC 245 creates protected categories for the purposes of "hate crime" prosecution. Those categories are race, color, religion and national origin. So, regarding your hypothetical, and assuming you met the other requirements of the statute (I'm glossing over some technicalities), anyone who viciously assaulted you
for being white, or being Irish could be prosecuted for a hate crime. It's true that "short people" and "librarians" aren't protected categories though :). I believe the proposed litigation seeks to add gender and disability, as well as sexual orientation, to the categories. Honestly, I thought gender was already a protected category, and was surprised to learn that it wasn't.

I'm not certain of the wisdom of the proposed litigation, but I think my concerns are different than yours. You asked for someone to explain where the "equality" was in the litigation. At least in the text of the litigation, there's no notion of unequality. I think some people read "sexual orientation" as code for "homosexuals are extra special." From a legal standpoint at least (IAAL), this isn't the case. Sexual orientation means sexual orientation, not homosexual sexual orientation. Most people have a race, national origin, and sexual orientation. Some people have several of each.

If your concern is more with the enforcement of the law, I think it's fair to think that, as a practical matter, a black person or lesbian or Iraqi is more likely to receive hate-crime protection than a white person or heterosexual or Irishman. On the other hand, there's some evidence that the former category is more likely to be the victim of bias-motivated crimes.

I'm sorry I don't have any more recent statistics than this, but these are from 2004.
The FBI tracks "hate crimes" against whites, straight people, and the disabled, along with many other categories. I'd be happy to track down prosecutions for bias-crimes against whites for you; I might have more trouble finding instances of "straight-bashing" or "librarian-stoning" however.

Apologies for the length and the relative tardiness of the comment. I've been neglecting my Google Reader.

Zendo Deb said...

"*actually, I'm in favor of the government getting out of the marriage business altogether, but that's a blogpost for another day"

That's not gonna happen, not anytime soon. From Social Security survivor benefits, to who can decide burial options, to who can visit you in the hospital. There are thousands of rights... some of them very small, but they permeate every aspect of life.