-- by Dave
We're finally making progress on passing a federal hate-crimes bill: On Thursday, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.
Sure enough, as Kyle at RightWingWatch predicted, the right-wing freakout has begun. Unsurprisingly, Glenn Beck is already leading the way.
He invited on wingnut talk-show host Sandi Rios, who promptly declared hate crimes "thought crimes" (uh-huh, right). She also attacked Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, who was defending the bill from Republican attempts to nullify it by adding categories or victims by claiming:
Rios: Well, she's saying that anybody that's killed or harmed is not a real victim -- unless they're homosexual or gay or Jewish. Then they're real victims. So you can murder more severely if they happen to homosexual or Jewish. It makes no sense.
Beck: Whatever happened to equal protection under the law? If you kill someone, you should go to jail!
Well, as I've explained previously, hate-crimes laws in fact do offer equal protection under the law:
This ... is precisely how the laws work: they are intended to protect everyone equally from these kinds of crimes. Everyone, after all, has religious beliefs of one kind or another; we all have a race, a gender, an ethnicity, a sexual orientation. A quick look at the FBI's annual bias-crime statistics bears this out; anti-white bias crimes are the second-largest category of racial crimes, and anti-Christian crimes constitute the second-largest in the religion category. If the laws were written as McGough suggests, they couldn't possibly pass the Constitution's equal-protection muster; yet these laws have.
Bias-crime laws aren't about "special categories" of victims; in fact, the victim's actual ethnic or sexual status is of secondary importance -- what matters is the motivation of the perpetrator. This is why a gay-bashing assault against a person mistaken for being gay is still a bias crime.
As for why this law is important to pass, read more here.
(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.)
Note: As usual, the debate at the above-linked sites regarding hate crimes has invariably wandering into the standard disinformation being peddled. As something of an antidote, I'd like to offer these links for deeper background on hate crimes, the laws against them, and the rationale for those laws.
Letter to the L.A. Times
When hate hits home
Bigotry and freedom
Hate crimes: The big picture
Failing in the present
Should we repeal hate-crimes laws?
The GOP, gays, and hate crimes
Hate crimes, democracy, and freedom
Hate crimes: A response
Who needs hate-crime laws?