Not having heard much about it in the last few months, I optimistically hoped that we had heard the last of the draconian “hate crimes” legislation which Democrats have been trying to pass for years. Now it appears that the bill is about to pass the Senate as an amendment attached to the Defense Appropriations bill, and President Obama spoke this weekend to the Human Rights Campaign expressing his eagerness to sign the bill into law, announcing: “I can announce that after more than a decade, this bill is set to pass and I will sign it into law.”
It troubles me at least a little to be on the same side as religious conservatives in opposing this bill and to be going against the majority of the American public who polls show supporting hate crimes legislation by a majority of as much as 88%, but when something is wrong it is wrong and it does not matter how many people support it or how wrongheaded some of those who oppose it are.
As I have written before, and still believe that no matter how well intentioned or how popular, no law which gives special privileges to selected classes of people and punishes individuals for their thoughts rather than their actions can ever be considered just. It is no more right to give a selected class of people preferential treatment under the law than it would be to take away the rights of a group of citizens for their race, beliefs or sexual preferences. To do so perverts and corrupts the law and undermines the Constitution.
Once this law passes, where do we draw the line? What is to stop the passage of myriad other well-intentioned laws which continue the pattern of setting one group above another and criminalizing thought? Will the next step be to outlaw certain political beliefs, to silence dissenting voices in the media and in the pulpit, or to punish anyone who is different just because the majority demands it?
We already have sufficient laws on the books to punish any crime against any individual on the basis of what has actually been done to him or her. Crimes are just as horrible for the victim regardless of what the mindset or motivation of the criminal is. Existing sentencing guidelines already take into account the severity or cruelty of the crime and special circumstances which can include almost anything.
Our legal system works because it assumes that all men are equal under the law and that you get the same justice if you’re rich or poor, man or woman, gay or straight. A victim is a victim and a criminal is a criminal and crimes are punished because they are crimes, not because of who committed them or who they targeted. To create special classes of victims or of criminals and set some people above others, declaring that their suffering is more important just because of who they are makes the law unequal and oppressive and is absolutely antithetical to the idea of a society based on the idea of universal equality.
If you want to right past wrongs and make society more just, then legalize gay marriage and put an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” President Obama seems reluctant to do these sensible things, yet he’s willing to shred the Constitution and violate the most basic principles of equality under the law by signing this abominable law. Another example of the tyranny which flows from the tainted spring of one-party rule.