Congress Votes On Hate Crimes Law
The House has voted to approve a new hate crimes law named after Matthew Shepard. The vote was 249-175. The bill has been introduced in the Senate but a vote is not yet scheduled. President Obama has indicated he would sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. The law would broaden current laws to include attacks based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability.
Current laws already allow federal jurisdiction over crimes based on race, color, religion or national origin. The bill would also lift a requirement that a victim had to be attacked while engaged in a federally protected activity, like attending school, for it to be a federal hate crime.
I must admit to having mixed views on these kind of laws whether at the state or federal level. I would hope that my past postings make it clear I am a strong support of gay rights and find any form of prejudice (be it based on any of the above critera or any other) to be disgusting.
However I am also concerned about the idea of passing laws based upon what people think, even when those thoughts are offensive to most of us. I’m not paranoid or anything but once you outlaw one form of thinking then it becomes easier to outlaw other forms of thought.
In addition, it seems to me that most crimes are hate crimes. When a person attacks one man because he is <insert stupid prejudiced reason here> and then attacks another man just because the attacker is a rotten person, does he make that second attack out of love ?
Admittedly this law only extends federal jurisdiction to such crimes, and that means this is probably more of a procedural thing. My guess would be that if you want to you could pretty much get federal jurisdiction on almost any crime if you work at it.
On one level this is being seen as a great stand for gay rights, and I understand the desire of the adminstration to do something for a strong base of support. But I’m not sure this is really that much. From time to time I’ve gone to the West Wing for quotes and this is another good case.
In one episode they were passing hate crimes legislation in what was basically a tv version of the Matthew Shepard story. There was concern that the father of the victim might not be comfortable with his son having been gay so CJ goes to talk to him. I think his response sums up my views on the topic.
The hate crimes bill is fine. Who gives a damn? It’s fine. I don’t care. If you ask me, we shouldn’t be making laws against what’s in a person’s head but who gives a damn? I don’t understand how this President, who I voted for, I don’t understand how he can take such a completely weak-ass position on gay rights.
Gays in the military, same-sex marriage, gay adoption, boards of education – where the hell is he? I want to know what qualities necessary to being a parent this President feels my son lacked? I want to know from this President, who has served not one day in Vietnam – I had two tours in Vietnam. I want to know what qualities necessary to being a soldier this President feels my son lacked? Lady, I’m not embarrassed my son was gay. My government is.
Like the father in that scene, I’m agnostic on this new law. I probably would have opposed it just on the grounds of not passing laws on what people think but I have no major issue with it. What I do have a major issue with is the lack of real work towards government discrimination towards gays.