New hate crimes bill passed: good or bad?

President Obama signed new hate crimes legislation today.

The bill was supported by gay rights groups, such as HRC, whose president called it “our nation’s first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” It was opposed by conservative groups, according to CNN, because "a hate crimes law could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects such as abortion or homosexuality.

So, do you support this legislation or not?

(There was a recent more general debate on hate crimes here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=533997)

ETA: I tried to find a link to the text of the bill, but failed. Little help?

I support it to the extent that if there are to be hate crimes laws, they should cover sexual orientation.

I oppose it to the extent that I don’t believe in hate crimes laws, but rather support sentencing enhancements.

I’m opposed to hate crime legislation in theory, but IF we have it for some minorities we should have it for all minorities. So in this context it’s very good news. Especially since it’s an indication that attitudes toward GLBTs in general are improving.

I wonder how many conservatives are opposed to legislation on the basis of race, because it could be usd to criminalize racists’ speech.

I see no logical reason, moral argument, or Constitutional justification for any law that treats crimes against one group of people differently from crimes against a different group of people. Murder is murder. Assault is assault. Vandalism is vandalism. The more standard the punishments are, the better.

I agree with Villa, this is sort of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it provides some degree of legal protection for gay people. On the down side, it’s a hate crime law, and I oppose hate crime laws because I think they make it appear that some victims are more valuable or worthy of protection than others.

This is just wrong. Flat out wrong. Vandalism is not vandalism. Painting “Aston Villa Rules” on my neighbors wall is a very different kettle of fish to painting “Hitler was right” on a synagogue wall. Smashing my neighbors garden gnomes is very different to smashing African American grave stones in a cemetary and spray painting KKK on them.

Now, I would prosecute both as vandalism (or criminal damage), but allow, as the law always has, increased sentences based on motive. Punishments should NOT be standard. Because the effects of crime are not standard. Atempting to instill fear in someone based on race, or religion, or sexual orientation is just worthy of greater punishment than getting liquored up and deciding your neighbor has ugly ass taste in lawn decorations.

I think its a good thing. Beating and/or killing someone in order to terrorize a wider group to which the belong is a fundamentally different crime then simply attacking an individual, and the law should make that distinction.

I love it. I don’t care how conservatives see it, but some people need to be protected more than others due to their high profile, historical oppression, or some other reason. A wonderful thumb to their eye

Completely agree with this.

I’ve posted my more general views on hate-crime legislation on these boards before, so to save some typing, i’ll just quote one of my earlier posts:

mhendo, I have to disagree with your statement that we’d be criminalizing thoughts. As you said already, we make certain speculations already about the offender’s state of mind. That by itself cannot be taken as anything less than punishment for a person’s thoughts. One could easily apply the anti-hate crime legislation argument and say why should his state of mind matter when the act and the result is the same thing?

The answer to that is why hate crimes legislation is necessary. I believe we have laws for a few reason, the relevent ones here being that it provides a deterrent to future crimes and protects the citizens of the law’s jurisdiction.

So we criminalize thoughts pertaining to the offender’s state of mind because based on the why’s, we can determine if a person is more or less likely to committ a crime again. If Joe catches Dave in bed with Joe’s wife and kills Dave, then Dave’s dead, but the crime had mitigating circumstances. Joe’s wife and Dave betrayed Joe in one of the worst possible ways, and Joe could be a great guy otherwise, but he couldn’t take this level of betrayal.

While murder isn’t the right way to handle things, most of us would nod our head in understanding, if not outright sympathy while still condemning Joe for his heinous deed. Joe should be punished, but if he had done simply what some of us would have done as well, and many of us have liked to, then we can see that punishing Joe severely wouldn’t really serve justice as much as giving him a lighter sentence. He isn’t any more likely to kill again, there’s nobody really to protect, and deterrence doesn’t factor in because it would be difficult to get Joe into the same circumstances.

Hate crimes legislation, I believe, works on the same principle, where deterrence factors into it. We cannot ban hate, we cannot prevent its expression, but by criminalizing crimes based on it more severely, we send a message that while the underlying thoughts are not criminal, they are still wrong and people better keep it to themselves lest they get out of control. That, I think, helps deter people.

The other thing is, as you said, there are historical circumstances that factor as well. For groups of people historically oppressed, violated, and attacked, just giving them the status quo of everyone else is not equal. If a burglar stole from me, and the punishment was simply that the burglar would be somehow prevented from stealing from me ever again, is that fair to me? I was wronged, I deserve some restitution. Minorities and gays have been historically wronged severely. It is not fair for us to simply tell them their suffering means nothing and they should just be treated like everyone else from now on. That doesnt address their historical role as the oppressed and it doesn’t serve fairness, which would demand at least some kind of reparations. Giving their current haters harsher penalties helps to equalize these groups’ historical treatment, and that, I believe, serves justice.

I would not “nod [my] head in understanding,” nor do i believe that there are “mitigating circumstances” to Joe’s act. Killing someone for sleeping with your wife is wrong, period.

Also, you really avoided altogether the most important aspect of my observation about premeditation, which is that any violent crime that is planned and thought out beforehand, whether for “hate crime” reasons or not, should be punished severely.

For example, if a group of people wait outside a club to beat up particular people just for being gay, then this requires a certain amount of forethought and premeditation. That forethought and premeditation should, in my opinion, weigh heavily against them at sentencing.

I would argue, though, that if they waited outside a club to beat me up because they didn’t like me, as an individual, their forethought and premeditation should be a factor here as well. The fact that i’m not gay, and that their hatred was directed at me personally rather than against a particular social group, does not mitigate the seriousness of their offense.

I’m not saying there are easy answers here, and i’m not opposed to hate crimes legislation strongly enough to actively call for its repeal, but on balance i’m not convinced it’s a good idea.

AMEN!!! I have been the victim of hate crimes. (I’m disabled and grew up in a Stepford suburb and experianced extreme animosity and prejudice simply b/c of the disabilty I have)
Sorry but hate crimes are different from regular crimes. If it weren’t for the animosity, the criminal act wouldn’t even exist.

All hate crimes bills are bad. Murder is bad, rape is bad, beating someone is bad. Those are crimes, they should carry harsh enough penalties without these stupid discriminatory extensions. We need a simpler law one that is fairer for everyone. What happened to Matthew Shepherd was wrong and if we need to be tougher on murderers so be it, it doesn’t matter that they killed him because he was a ‘faggot’ it matters that they murdered an innocent young man.

I agree with mswas. All people should be treated equally under the law. It’s not worse to kill someone because you hate their homosexuality than it is to kill them because you hate their wealth, for example. Both are vile, despicable acts and should be punished severely.

Hate Crimes laws divide people up by race and sexual orientation. To that extent, they make the problem worse. Do you think it helps the cause of gay rights to give anti-gay people yet another thing to froth over?

This is not a rational argument.

How on earth do you figure? If a crime was committed because of animosity, that’s logically equivalent to saying that the crime wouldn’t have been committed without the animosity.

Anyway, my take on hate crimes is they’re different from normal violent crimes on a fundamental level… they’re a form of terrorism. They’re targeting an entire class of people with a message that “It could just as easily have been you.” It’s an implied willingness to do the same to every person in that group, so long as they don’t get caught.

It is bad, bad, bad.

Today I felt like just stomping the shit out of somebody. I always prefer that it’s somebody smaller and weaker than me–preferably both, but at least one of the two, and since I am pretty small and weak myself, these folks are hard to come by. It needs to be either a kid, or somebody who’s disabled, or an old feeble person.

Well, now it can’t be an old person because they’re protected. It can’t be a disabled person because they’re protected.

It needs to be somebody the same race as me.

It needs to be somebody I know, because if I don’t know them I’m taking a chance that they might be gay. Even if I know them, they might be secretly gay.

This pretty much leaves my husband, and I told him as much. He is not protected under ANYTHING. He’s white, European, straight, and not too old.

He’s writing to his congressperson, so this situation will soon be rectified.

Meanwhile I must resort to murdering people in my fiction.

If you get beaten up just for being young, or white, or straight, or cis, or male… the law protects you too. So no stomping on your husband. :wink:

Sam,

Do you really think that the anti-gay people are going to get any MORE anti-gay than they already are because of this legislation? I highly doubt it. Plus, if some of them were thinking of beating up that faggot down the block, maybe now they’ll think twice if they’ll be punished more severely. Probably not, since most of these crimes aren’t committed by the brightest of bulbs, but I really don’t see a downside to this legislation.
Mark

I agree… their frothing isn’t rational, and you can’t make it better by pandering to them.