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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hate Crimes vs. "Regular" Crimes...

If you're up on things going on in Washington, you know the Hate Crimes bill--the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act-- was passed by the House a few days ago. It is now in the Senate.

Now, I'm not against this bill for reasons some conservatives are. I don't have any fears that my personal rights are going to be violated because of it. Some have said that because of the vague wording in the bill, pedophiles could be protected under it. I certainly hope that loophole is fixed before it becomes law! But quite frankly, I think anyone who commits a crime against another person for any reason needs to be punished to the full extent of the law. Every single day we hear on the news that someone has been murdered or brutally attacked. Old people. Young people. Married people. Single people. People of faith and people of no faith. Black. White. Asian. Hispanic. No one is safe from crime of any kind.

But here's why I don't agree with these so-called "Hate Crimes" laws.

If someone kills another person, it's murder. Right? Then that person needs to be punished for murder. Life in prison or even the death penalty.

But let's say the Hate Crimes laws are in effect when the crime happens. Let's say the murderer hates gay people and kills a gay person. What then? Well, I don't see how the criminal can be punished anymore than life in prison or the death penalty. Do you?

OK. Moving on.

For the sake of argument, let's say the victim doesn't die. Let's just say a gay person is brutally attacked, as has happened, simply because he is gay. And let's say the Hate Crimes law is in place.

BUT....

On that very same day, I am attacked by a stranger, too. Some creep wanted to steal my car and I fought back. My injuries are similar to the gay person. No, the attacker didn't necessarily "hate" me, but I was attacked nonetheless.

My question is, should the criminal who attacked the gay person get a harsher punishment than the person who attacked me?

Why??

Am I not as important as a gay or black or whatever person? If we are going to call out for EQUALITY, then yes, let's have equality. Hate Crimes legislation is not equal. It puts a greater value on those protected under it.

Apparently I would not be protected from hate according to this bill. I am a white, heterosexual woman. If someone kills me for my purse or my car, it's not considered a "hate crime." Doesn't matter that the murderer took my life. He supposedly didn't hate me when he did it, so therefore it's not a "hate crime."

Guess what, folks? I'd still be dead! My kids would still lose their mother. Doesn't the person who took my life deserve to be punished in the same way as the criminal who murdered the gay person? Or the black person? Or a Muslim person? Our country (and the world, really) has a shameful past of placing greater value on certain people because of the color of their skin. It seems to me that "hate crimes" legislation does basically the same thing. It places greater value on certain groups of people over the rest of the population.

And from what I've seen, just about everyone could stake a claim to being hated by someone else. People hate me because I'm a Christian. Because I'm American. Because I'm middle-class. Because I'm a woman. Because I'm alive! There are no parameters to hatred, folks! It abounds throughout the world!

So, there's my beef with so-called "hate crimes" legislation. I think the law should cover everyone and not make anyone more important than their fellow human beings. Not for race, religion, sexual orientation or station in life.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Intent is basic to law. You the victim will be just as dead if your attacker commits 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, or manslaughter; but the law assigns penalities according to the intent of your attacker. Weighing intent is one of the great achievements of the British commonlaw tradition of which American law is part. Your argument rejecting intent applies to all of American law where intent is a factor. Do you really want to overthrow centuries of legal tradition? What do you want instead and why would that be better?

Michelle Shocklee said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am not advocating changing the "intent" of anything. My argument is just the opposite. Perhaps my "examples" weren't as clear as I'd hoped. Let's say the gay person is murdered, not by premeditation, but by the heat of the moment. (I believe the case of the gay young man murdered a number of years ago--my brain won't pull up the date or state, but his battered body was found in a desert-like setting--was not found to be premeditation, but stemmed from the murderers feeling as though he'd come on to them. If I recall correctly, they did not know him prior to this. My argument is that if someone murdered me without having planned it, shouldn't the two murders be equal in the sight of the law? But under Hate Crime legislation, they wouldn't. Both murderers came to the point of "intent" when they knew they would take their victims life. One out of hate. One out of nothing more than an evil heart. Don't both victims and their families deserve to have the criminal who killed their loved one prosecuted equally? Not one more severely than the other?

Don't know if that makes my position any more clearer, but there you have it.

~Michelle

Anonymous said...

You're describing what is known as the "gay panic" defense, which is happily not a viable defense any longer in US courts (for example, it was categorically rejected by the judge in the Mathew Shepard murder trial). But suppose the young man had been sought out by gay bashers and that the state could in fact prove they had deliberately sought out a gay man to bash. Why can't the state regard this kind of crime as more heinous than the case in which a person is assaulted, say in a bar fight, and later dies. There is a difference in intent here on the part of the perpetrators. Why can't the state take this difference into account? American law considers not only consequences but intents as well. People who intend and do great harm are more dangerous than people who do great harm inadvertently. Doesn't keeping the more dangerous criminal locked up longer than the less dangerous criminal make sense?

Michelle Shocklee said...

ABSOLUTELY! Those type of people need to be kept off the streets!! But I still think your example has flaws. If the gay bashers sought out a gay person and brutally killed him, then yes, they absolutely need to face life in prison or the death penalty. Not because they brutally killed a GAY person, but because they killed a person. So, let's take out the "gay" part of the equation. Let's just say some warped guy has it out for another guy because he got the job the first guy wanted. (In this economy, definitely a possibility!) The warped guy sought out the other guy and blew him away with a gun. Isn't this a hate crime? The killer hated the other guy so much and blames him for losing the job that he wanted him dead and out of the way. So shouldn't he be punished in the same way as the gay basher? Under Hate Crimes legislation, he wouldn't. It would fall under laws already on the books. And I don't know for certain, but I would imagine he would face life in prison or the death penalty, depedning on the state where the crime took place. He, like the gay basher, needs to be taken off the streets! The point I'm trying (and apparently not succeeding) to make is that hate knows no color, race, religion or sexual orientation. To say that one group is more hated than another and deserves special justice is wrong. Every citizen who becomes a victim of a crime for whatever reasons deserves equal justice. Good discussion! ~Michelle