Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hate Crimes Bill in the US House

The the big talk in gay advocacy right now is centered on the passage of a gay-inclusive hate-crimes bill in the US House of Representatives. The legislation was inspired by the murder of Matthew Shepard 10 years ago. Long story short, he was lured by young men who pretended to be sexually interested in him, and then robbed, beaten, and left tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere. He was later found and brought to hospital, but did not survive.

The bill being debated is supposed to allow the federal government to assist in the prosecution of violent crimes based on sexual orientation (and disability, actually). Since this represents protection for gay people, many conservatives are flipping their lid. The most commonly touted argument is the claim that people who view homosexuality as immoral would be prosecuted for expressing their opinion. Of course, the bill explicitly targets violent crime only (AND Americans have the 1st Amendment that protects freedom of speech), but talk of gay rights tends to decrease some people's preoccupation with "truth" and "reality." ;)

There is another argument, however, that I take more seriously. That is disagreement with hate-crimes laws in general. The general argument goes: an old lady gets murdered, and a gay guy gets murdered because he's gay, but the murderer of the gay man gets a longer sentence--why is the gay man's life "worth" more?

There is some validity to this concern, but it's unfounded if we consider that perhaps there is an additional crime in the murder of the gay man, and I believe there is. This additional crime is a form of terrorism, in that murdering someone because of their sexual orientation sends a message to the queer community at large. That message is one of violence and intimidation towards a particular group of people, which I think falls within the definition of terrorism. That's why I think that additional penalties for people who commit "hate-crimes," but it has to be made clear that the additional punishment is for the act of intimidation and violence towards a greater community.

I would, of course, love to hear what everyone else thinks. :)

UPDATE: The bill includes gender identity as well

No comments: