According to The Associated Press (06.25.2009 3:04pm EDT -- Washington)
Attorney General Eric Holder urged Congress to pass a new hate crimes law so the government could prosecute cases of violence based on sexual orientation, gender or disability.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, he cited the recent killing of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The alleged assailant is a white supremacist.
"One has to look at the unfortunate history of our nation. There are groups that have been singled out, that have been targets of violence," the attorney general said. "We have to face and confront that reality."
Lawmakers debated the possible effect of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after a gay man killed in Wyoming in 1998. It would allow federal prosecution of violence committed because of the actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity of the victim.
MY TAKE ON IT
by Bud Evans
Someone once told me that all crimes were hate crimes. All crimes show disrespect, if not outright contempt for others. I agree. But crimes solely motivated by hate are different -- especially if they are meant to send a message of intimidation, not to just an individual, but to an entire community.
For example: Jerry and few of his friends just spray-painted "Washington High School Rules!" on the garage door of Mr. Rogers, their neighbor. Well, obviously that act shows total disrespect for the property rights of others. That is vandalism. Jerry and his friends should be sentenced, by the courts, to pay for the damage as well as to perform community service -- like being required to clean up graffiti around the city as a punishment for a set period of time.
But later that week, Jerry and the boys come back, after hearing a rumor about Mr. Rogers, and spray-paint the threat, "Mr. Roger's is a Faggot! All Fags must die!!!" on Mr. Roger's garage door. Was this the same as the earlier act of simply vandalism? I think not.
No, it was a clear message to the community that it would not be safe for Mr. Rogers nor any other members of that particular minority group to live in that neighborhood. In this case, it is up to the court to make it very clear that there is a major distinction between simple vandalism and threats of violence through intimidation. An enhanced sentence should reflect that very obvious distinction.
From a practical point of view, the damage to Mr. Rogers' property is identical. Yet, the cause and effect are quite different.
So, it is asinine to say that ALL crimes are the same and motivated by the same factors. If that were the case, then we would not have 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree felonies -- including murder and assault. Obviously, motivation is a big factor in the determination of the seriousness of a crime and in the determination of the sentence warranted.
Perhaps the term "Hate Crime" should have been substituted with the term "Domestic Terrorism and/or Group Affiliation Intimidation and Assault". That would make it more difficult for the homophobes to toss their red herrings out there in an effort to trivialize a serious problem.
Either way, I find it ironic that some conservative Christian groups call this "special protection/rights" for homosexuals when not too many years ago a federal law was passed, without much discussion, making it a federal crime to burn down a church.
So why was that necessary? Why is setting fire to an empty church a more important crime than some homophobic arsonist burning down the home of a homosexual who is not afforded such federal protections? After all, aren't they both "Hate Crimes"?
Ask some hypocritical clergyman or a right-wing politician the following question next time they try pulling that old chestnut about "special rights" out of their moth-eaten bag of hackneyed catch-phrases. Is it more important that the US government give "special rights" to religious sects and to their properties than to persecuted American citizens who only wish to feel a bit safer in their homes, in their communities and in their day to day lives?
© Bud Evans, 2009