Hate Crimes Legislation 2007: On the Path to Veto

(Cross-posted @ Daily Kos)


The House recently passed a bill adding sexual orientation, disability, and gender to the list of punishable hate crimes. Bush intends to veto.


The Right wing is crying out as usual, giving their standard nonsense arguments about how our country already has anti-violence laws that are working just fine (sure they are), and that to add more is really just to trample on the right to free speech (when did they start caring about that?). Of course, in the real world, there is a stark difference between the murder of someone in an acute case—such as a husband killing his wife—and the murder of a kid because he looks gay, or a black guy because he ain’t white. Both share the act of killing, and both share a motivation. But it is in the character of the motivation and the wider implications of which that make Hate Crime legislation so important.


In the former case, the motivation is nearly always directed solely in the direction of the individual victim. In the latter case, the motivation is in part directed toward the victim, but is also a statement of belief on the part of the killer to a wider audience: one that says, “all of you who fit this profile are at risk.” The lynching of a black man, hanging him from a tree, or burning him alive, or tying him to the back of a truck and driving around town until all of the pieces of his body are ripped off of him and scattered around town like a bloody bread trail is meant to intimidate everyone within the victims category group.


To pretend that this kind of violence and intimidation—the kind that casts a wide net of fear—doesn’t exist is folly. And to pretend that, even if it does exist, it doesn’t apply to homosexuals is bordering on cruel. The administration has spouted off a number of arguments against the bill, but the underlying reason is that it applies to those with a different “sexual orientation” than the one the President is comfortable with. And it is on that basis that it will likely suffer the veto.


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