May 03, 2007

Hate Crimes

Okay, I'd honestly like to know if any of the arguments against the hate-crimes bill that just passed the House actually hold up. (The bill would add gender and sexual orientation to the categories covered by federal hate-crimes laws, and enable the FBI to work more closely with local officials on these matters.)

Here's a sample: Christian right groups claim that the bill will prevent Tony Perkins from gay-bashing every Sunday. That's doubtful. The National Review argues that "[T]here is no evidence that local law enforcement has a special need for federal resources to help it combat hate crimes." That's not true. Republicans complain that the bill wouldn't protect senior citizens and members of the military. But when John Conyers offered to add those protections to the bill, the GOP refused. NR, again, says that it could "open the door to legal punishment for harboring incorrect thoughts." That doesn't seem right, either: The bill pretty clearly states that a defendant's past statements or associations can't be used as evidence unless they "specifically relate to the offense."

So what else is there? (The National Review may be right to say that these laws wouldn't actually deter hate crimes, but I'd be surprised to see them argue that deterrence should be the only consideration when setting crime policy.) On the other side of the ledger, I've always thought Dave Neiwert has made a persuasive case for going hard after hate crimes. His analogy to anti-terrorism laws seems apt, though I'd be curious to know what other people think.

More: Andrew Sullivan notes that the administration has a particularly noxious position on this issue--"that hate crimes laws are fine for all targeted groups except gays."
-- Brad Plumer 2:39 PM || ||