The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill expanding federal hate crimes legislation to cover bias crimes committed against people because of their gender or sexual orientation. Now, if you haven’t been following the story, you’re probably thinking “We have federal laws against hate crimes. Why do we need a new law?”
It’s simple. The current federal law only prosecutes people for hate crimes committed against a person because of the victim’s race, religion, or national origin. Supporters of the expanded federal hate crimes law maintain that the law is not broad enough to protect people who may be victimized because of their gender or sexual orientation. For example, Matthew Sheppard‘s murderers could not have been prosecuted under federal law because sexual orientation is not covered by the existent hate crimes law, even though it was clear that they killed Sheppard because he was gay. Moreover, some states do not have laws against attacking someone because of their gender or sexual orientation so the expanded federal legislation would be the only legal protection for women, homosexuals, transsexuals, and others in those states who may become victims of gender-based hate crimes.
Unfortunately for the bill’s supporters, and for anyone who believes that nobody should be victimized because of their gender identification or sexual orientation, President Bush has promised to veto it. The president is not the only person who opposes this bill. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson called it a “thought crimes bill,” saying that “if you read the bible a certain way with regard to morality, you may be guilty of committing a thought crime.” In a letter of opposition, Dobson writes, the bill “is ultimately designed to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality.”
Wow!! Where do I begin? There’s so much in those few sentences it’s going to be hard to stay focused.
OK! Here goes! First off, Dobson claims that the expanded hate crimes law will “muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality.” Huh?! The federal hate crimes legislation is designed to punish people for HATE CRIMES committed against other human beings! Thinking is not the same as committing a hate crime. Anti-gay campaigners like Dobson and his ilk can think and say whatever they want about homosexuals but as long as they or their supporters do not translate those thoughts into violent actions (i.e., HATE CRIMES) they are not breaking the law.
Basically, Dobson tries to argue that expanding federal laws to protect homosexuals (let’s not forget the law would also protect women who are victims of sexual violence) somehow restricts his and other Christians’ freedom of speech. Why would that be? After all, these guys can, and do, say whatever they want about homosexuals and anybody else of whom they disapprove. Does it have anything to do with the fact that he and some other Christians espouse views that are intolerant of homosexuals?
Obviously there’s more to these people’s opposition to this bill. From the Chicago Tribune news blog we get this gem: “Also, religious conservatives feared the new legislation could be used to criminalize a clergyman whose fire-and-brimstone against homosexuality might, inadvertently, spur a misguided believer to commit a hate crime.”
What!!!??? How the hell is anyone going to “inadvertently” motivate someone to commit a hate crime? If you are afraid something you say might make some sick f*ck want to kill someone else, don’t f*cking say it! Simple! And, it is no less a hate crime if some “misguided believer” attacks someone simply because that person is gay. It would be no different from attacking her simply for being a woman, or Jewish, or Asian. By the way, for any “misguided believers” who may be reading, saying you did it because of a sermon you heard in church still makes it a hate crime.
Sure, you could argue that you were just trying to rob someone and you didn’t know he was gay when you bludgeoned him to half to death, tied him to a fence post and left him to die but seriously, how often does this happen? If someone is injured or killed in the course of being robbed, it’s pretty clear to police and prosecutors that the primary motivation of the criminal was robbery. And it’s pretty clear when the perpetrator is driven by hatred of the person for his/her skin color, religion, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. Hate crimes are characterized by a degree of violence that goes beyond any reason. And anyway, if you beat up and/or kill someone who turns out to be gay, your hateful ass deserves to go to jail for a long, long time regardless of what your original intent was.
But let’s go back to Dobson. I was really intrigued by his statement about reading the bible “in a certain way.” Would that happen to be in a way that leads him to scorn and castigate gay people? Because personally, I’m not sure which bible Dobson has been reading. Whenever I read the Gospels, I get the impression that Jesus Christ was an advocate of love and tolerance. Take, for example, this statement he made to the mob that had assembled to stone a prostitute to death: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7 King James Version). Or how about the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), the young man who broke traditional and religious law when he demanded his inheritance prior to his father’s death, moved off the land, spent all his money on booze and women, and (abhorrent to the Jews of the time) worked with pigs. Despite all his failings, this son was welcomed home by his father in a show of tolerance and acceptance.
We’d all be better off if more of those who call themselves Christians showed even a tiny fraction of the capacity for love, acceptance, and tolerance Jesus preached in the Gospels.
Support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Write letters to your congressional representatives, petition the White House, and support groups like Human Rights Campaign that fight for equality.