Will the new hate crimes bill open the door for prosecuting religious ministers who preach that homosexuality is a sin? Will it allow transvestite teenagers to claim hate crimes when they aren't invited to a classmate's birthday party? Will it mean that you're committing a hate crime if you observe to a friend that the guy panhandling in his wheelchair smells like a big pile of unwashed socks?
People, please read the English language. In order for an action to be considered a "hate crime," it must first and foremost be a crime.
Preaching against sin (be it homosexuality, extramarital sex, hypocrisy, or bowling) is not a crime.
Not inviting someone to a private birthday party is not a crime.
Observing that someone smells like socks is not a crime.
That being said, the whole concept of "hate crimes" makes the Ivory Madonna more than a little uneasy. How do we know that a crime is a hate crime? Short of telepathically investigating a person's mind to determine their inner motives (a trick which few of you have mastered but, I assure you, the Ivory Madonna learned long ago), the only way is to examine what went along with the crime. Trouble is, too often those factors involve things that qualify under the First Amendment as "speech': Verbal speech, nonverbal behavior, signs, printed or written text, etc.
Yes, some types of speech are not protected. Among them are speech that directly incites violence. But it's a mighty thin line between speech that promotes violence, and speech that accompanies violence.
None of this means that the Ivory Madonna thinks the bastards who crucified Matthew Shepard shouldn't pay extra hard for their crime. But laws giving extra punishment for particularly heinous crimes are a different matter from laws giving extra punishment for hate crimes.
The Ivory Madonna guesses that what's she's saying is this: suppose the murderes of a future Matthew Shepard were mute, and never gave any indication of their motives -- shouldn't their crime be punished just as harshly as any hate crime?
But do you hear the religious nuts arguing for the abolishment of the class of "hate crimes"? No, of course not. Because they themselves are the beneficiaries of that class. Religion has been a protected class under hate crime laws for a long time.
The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.
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