Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Unequal Justice: House Bill 1592 - Hate Crime Bill

An interesting article from the Star-Telegram regarding House Bill 1592.

That 'equal protection' thing

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

"Hate is too heavy a burden to bear," U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia proclaimed Thursday on the House floor. "We are all one people, one family."

If this is true -- that all Americans are one people, one family -- how can Lewis and so many of his congressional colleagues support hate-crime legislation that treats some family members differently than others?

In a 237-180 vote Thursday, the House approved a bill that would expand federal hate-crime categories to include violent attacks against homosexuals and people targeted because of gender. House Bill 1592 also would make it easier for federal law enforcement to assist local prosecutions in investigating and trying bias-motivated cases. A similar bill is working its way through the Senate.

The White House is backing up President Bush's veto threat with a sound argument: State and local criminal laws already cover the crimes defined under the bill, and there is "no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement."

Discrimination against a person because of race, gender, sexual orientation or physical disabilities is flat-out, no-argument wrong. To deny someone the opportunity to fully engage in civic society based on any of those criteria is anti-American. (And yes, that includes government benefits conferred on married couples.) When the question is civil rights, the nation's democratic foundations of fairness and equal protection are shaken if one sector of society is treated differently from the others.

At the same time, to enhance penalties or to step up prosecution efforts because the victim of a crime is a member of a "protected class" is wrong. A life is a life is a life -- one is not worth any more or any less than another.

Yet supporters of unequal justice continue to push for assigning value to victims' lives, as if some are worth more to society. This is inconceivable to anyone who holds a sliver of belief in "equal under the law."

Let's suspend the dead/more dead debate -- (would my son be any less dead if he were shot during a robbery than your son, who was shot because he's black/gay/Jewish/disabled/transgender? -- and focus on the whole notion of needing additional laws to address crimes motivated by hate.

Hate in itself is not a crime. It's ugly and should be abhorred in civil society, but there is no constitutional provision that says everyone has to like everyone else.

There is, however, a clear constitutional mandate in the 14th Amendment that says: "[N]or shall any State deny any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

More than one Democrat speaking on the floor Thursday cited support for this legislation as a way to make up for historically unequal enforcement of the laws. But failings on that front don't justify enacting blatantly partial legislation.

In a just society, punishment is exacted for aberrant behavior, not for the idea that motivated it.

Although motive might explain the behavior, it should in no way make the prosecution more aggressive or the punishment worse any more than it should excuse the act.

As Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma said Thursday, "The violence produced by hate is already illegal."

Jill "J.R." Labbe is deputy editorial page editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7599

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you know man, it is really kinda sad that all you do is sit here and hate on other people. it kinda says somthing about your personal life, or lack there of. im sorry that was mean. you know, i get very upset at ignorant anti-semites, but it's not your fault i guess, you were just brainwashed into thinking that everyone different from you is bad. theres a psychological term that is used in this case when describing people such as you, its called insecurity. of course a few others come to mind as well; off the top of my head i can think of wrong, ignorant, arrogant, dense, uneducated, simple-minded, idiotic,...o, and my personal favorite, just plain stupid. i dont hate you man, well i do, but i feel sorry for you, you have my pity o dim-witted one. you just dont understand, anything, and dude, people are ALWAYS afraid of what they dont understand. so you think your all cool strong, proud of your ignorance because you created this anti-semitic blog??? man your just afrid, nothing more. now i could sit here for hours and diminish your already miniscule self-confidence and miniature IQ level, but unlike you, i HAVE a life. however, in the off chance you would like to trade insults, i would love to participate. think of this as an invitation to a battle of the minds dude. learned-one against simple-one. you and me. and guess which one you are? ill give you a hint, your not the one with any knowledge what so ever. so here i extend to you once again, an invitation, a battle of the minds. now you have two choices, you can accept, or not. but dude, accepting this invitation will only reflect poorly on your already questionable "intelligence", and i use that word VERY lightly. however, if you do accept, i PROMISE i will NOT be so cordial and polite next time. I WILL ERADICATE YOU! (by the way, i know you dont know what that means, so go look it up in a dictionary). thats all for now my o-so-simple man. cheerio.