People attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender would receive federal protections under a Senate-approved measure that significantly expands the reach of "hate crimes" law. The Senate bill also would make it easier for federal prosecutors to step in when state or local authorities are unable or unwilling to pursue those acts deemed to be hate crimes.
Washington Sen. Patty Murray suggested the measure could actually protect people of faith by boosting penalties for hate crimes motivated by anti-religious bias. "Burning down a building is a crime -- but that crime takes on a new character when that building is a church or a synagogue or a mosque," she stated. "It's wrong when one person attacks another person on the street, for sure; but it has a different meaning when violence occurs because a victim is a different race or religion or sexual orientation."
The proposed legislation expands federal hate crimes to include those perpetrated against people because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also removes restrictions on federally protected activities.
"There is no room in our society for these acts of prejudice," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. "Hate crimes fragment and isolate our communities. They tear at our collective spirit."
Some 45 states have hate crime statutes, and investigations and prosecutions would remain mainly in state and local hands. But the bill provides federal grants to help state and local officials with the costs of prosecuting hate crimes and funds programs to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles. The federal government can step in after the Justice Department certifies that a state does not have jurisdiction or is unable to carry out justice.
My problem with "hate crimes" legislation is not that it criminalizes thought (It doesn't). The problem is that it is inherently unequal protection based on particular identity characteristics. Read Senator Murray's quote again: "Burning down a building is a crime -- but that crime takes on a new character when that building is a church or a synagogue or a mosque,"
Some people, based on their identity, will be more protected than others against violent crimes. That is unconstitutional, unAmerican, and wrong. This is pandering to popular special interest groups. This is the same kind of mob rule mentality that results in democracies eating the rich. We're punishing people for not being a member of popular identity groups. This could easily by fixed by not singling out particular identities, but making a blanket statement that all crimes of violence based on the victim's identity are subject to penalty. That would provide equal protection, at least.
We can stop this descent into mob rule by repealing the 17th Amendment.
If it's not too late.