They Hate to Do It

The Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which adds gays and lesbians to the list of those protected by hate crimes. That will make it interesting for President Bush to continue to threaten to veto it because he would also be vetoing the Defense Appropriations Act, which funds the Pentagon and the war in Iraq.

As Steve Reynolds at the All Spin Zone notes,
A few Republicans supported the Matthew Shepard Act, which protects gay and lesbian citizens from hate crimes, but Republicans like Lindsey Graham (suspected of being gay) say Bush will veto the bill. Larry Craig, of course, who is not gay, voted against the bill.


It may not be homophobia that drives the Republicans, anymore, but fear of the religious right. You gotta believe there’s going to be divine retribution from the Radical Religious Right against those Republicans who voted for the Matthew Shepard Act. In Larry Craig’s case, his motive appears to be a fear of losing power, or access to free travel and thus opportunities to visit restrooms all over the country.
The standard right-wing objection to hate crime legislation is two-fold; all crimes are hate crimes and therefore the punishment should be the same for any assault and not more so because the victim is gay, black, Jewish, or whatever. The second complaint is that laws against hate crimes are really laws that punish people for holding odious opinions about the protected people. (There's also the simple fact that the Republican party is pretty much anti-gay, and anything that gives the gay community any support is going to be voted down by them as a matter of course.)

As Melissa noted, hate crimes are not crimes against an individual but rather against an entire group of people. Gay-bashers or skinheads who beat up blacks or the homeless rarely know their victim personally; they pick them out because of the community they belong to, and it is an attempt to cower an entire group of people, regardless of their individuality. In other words, it's terrorism. And given the Republicans' embrace of the global war on terrorism, you would think that fighting terrorism, including protecting people from attacks for innate qualities such as sexual orientation would be on the top of their to-do list. After all, they have been screaming at us for the last six years that the highest priority in the country is fighting terrorism, and that should include terrorism of all stripes, including that which comes from the more outspoken and active members of the Religious Reich or just plain ignorant bigots. If President Bush vetoes this bill, as he has threatened to do, it will be because those frat boys who get drunk and stand outside gay bars and threaten patrons with pieces of one-by lumber, or the religious fanatics like Eric Rudolph who blow up abortion clinics, or David Koresh who impregnate eleven year old girls and murder ATF agents, or the all-American kids like Timothy McVeigh who blow up buildings aren't included in his definition of terrorism, nor is it by the people in the base of his party.

The idea that hate crimes are some sort of Orwellian attempt at thought control is bogus. No one is attempting to stop people from thinking bad thoughts about people, whether it's against a minority or queers or bimbos who talk on cell phones in their SUV's and don't use their turn signals. We are still free to think all the evil thoughts we want. The difference is when you turn a thought into an action and actually do something motivated by that thought. That removes it from the realm of idle musing and makes it a crime, and the law has recognized motive as a factor in both prosecution and sentencing for a very long time.

One final point: people who speak out against hate crime legislation have, strangely enough, rarely been the victim of a hate crime.

Crossposted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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