Seeking Liberty

Liberty is the Fruit from Which All Progress Grows

Hate crime legislation makes some more equal than others

Disclaimer: Let me say from the start, I am not homophobic.  My best friend from high school is openly gay.  I have known and been and continue to be friends with many homosexuals.  What you are about to read is not an attack on homosexuals, bisexuals or transgendered people.  It is a critique of the very idea of “hate crimes” legislation, nothing more.

The fact that I must post such a disclaimer is horrifyingly emblematic of our politically correct society.


The Senate passed new “hate crimes” legislation for violent crimes against homosexuals, transgendered people and so forth.  The legislation makes it a Federal crime to make a violent attack on a homosexual, et al, and gives Federal law enforcement the ability to “assist” local law enforcement when dealing with such crimes.

My question is, why is it more important that a criminal attack a person because they are a minority, a woman, or gay, than because the criminal wanted to take their wallet?  In the end, it’s all violent crime.  The crime is the violent act.  The motive is an aspect of the crime, not the crime itself.

In essence, we are criminalizing one form of thought over another.  Not one form of crime, but one form of thought.Just because a criminal commits an act because that criminal does not like their victim’s skin color or lifestyle does not make the crime special.  It does not make the crime unique or uncanny.  It makes it despicable, but all violent crime is despicable.

In addition, the fact that Congress specifies “classes” of people ignores the basic truth that hate is universal:  Hate is not limited to whites, homophobes or any other traditionally-viewed bigotry originators.  Minorities, homosexuals and members any other “protected class” are just as capable of hate and so-called “hate crimes.”  By specifying these protected classes, Congress actually creates a de-facto bill of attainder:  The legislation targets the members of the groups that are not protected for special punishment.  In this case, the bill of attainder requires a criminal trial first, but the intent is clear: Create special punishments based upon membership (or lack thereof) in a particular group.

Worse than this, the fact that hate crimes legislation gives special punishment based upon the criminal’s motive, their thinking process.  It is criminalizing thought.  In a free society, we are supposed to be allowed whatever thoughts we like, so long as we do not act upon them and harm, defraud or otherwise injure another person.  As disgusting and reprehensible as racism may be, it must also be permissible in a free society.

There should be no difference between a violent criminal act against a straight white man as the same violent act against a homosexual latino woman.  Making distinctions for a criminal’s motive, especially when large groups are specifically excluded, is simply wrong.  Since sentiment is so heavily tied to motive in this legislation, regular crime can be confused as hate crime:  Just because a racist white man attacks a black man does not mean the crime was a hate crime.  The while the sentiment of the perpetrator may have been racist, their motivation may have had little or nothing to do with race.

Hate crimes legislation is anathema to a free society.  Motive can be hate, but that should not give the crime special status.  It is only our societal experience with the Civil Rights movement that makes us think that hate crimes require special legislation.  How unfortunate that we learned the wrong lesson.  The right lesson to learn was that every person is special, every violent crime an act of malevolence.  The lesson we learned instead was that all crime is equal, but some crimes are more equal than others.

Filed under: crime, politics, Prejudice, racism, , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. gaytodecember says:

    I myself am gay, and for some time I thought the same thing as you until a lawyer friend of mine explained the need for hate crime laws. They noted that consistently, people that were tried and convicted of violent crimes against people of other races and sexualities consistently get lighter sentences for comprable crimes committed against someone of the same race or gender. A sort of crime of passion defense for those types of crimes seemed to work to appeal to the judge or juries. Hate crime legislation attempts to rectify the disparity seen in such sentencing.

  2. gaytodecember says:

    I’ll agree that in an ideal world violent crime would be treated appropriately and the law would be unnecessary, but then again in an ideal world people wouldn’t be beating each other up because of their race or sexuality. Or at all for that matter. As I contemplated this response it occurred to me that intent of a crime already plays a role in our justice system. If I drive recklessly and kill someone then I’m tried for vehicular manslaughter. If I purposefully run someone over because I have a grudge against them and they die I’m tried for murder. The end results were the same, some one died, but it was the intent that mattered.

    • fredmaidment says:

      No, it wasn’t the intent that mattered. It was the ACT. If you intend to kill someone by driving recklessly but never do, your intent never becomes a crime. You are not charged with murder, just reckless driving. If you in fact kill someone, THEN you are charged with vehicular homicide.

  3. gaytodecember says:

    I don’t think you understood my example. In both hypothetical situations someone dies. But in one instance the charges are more severe because the intent was different.

    To your point that the act should be what is punished, the same is true of hate crimes legislation. Some one free to hate as much as they want, they can even free to talk about how what they hate and how much (Fred Phelps and his folks do this a lot for instance). However it is acting on that hate in a violent manner that is being criminalized.

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