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04/26/2007

It's good for them that HR 1592 can't sue for defamation!

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 9-30Do you all know that series of "This is Your Brain on Drugs" PSAs that aired in the late 80's and early 90's? You know, the ones that involved the egg frying in the pan to show that drugs fry your brain? Yea? Well if you remember, the final versions of that omnipresent campaign featured a young man who, in the most exasperated of voices, said "Okay, last time," before cracking the egg and doing his whole frying pan bit. By the tone of his voice, it was clear that the producers were meaning to convey that despite the constant airings and the amount of time and money they had spent on the campaign, many people just weren't hearing their anti-drug message.

Well you know what? That's exactly how we feel about the religious right in terms of how they present their fight against federal hate crimes protections for LGBT people! No matter how many of us on the pro-gay side of things point out how blatantly the "pro-family" folks are misrepresenting the facts of the matter, they still continue to lie. And even worse, they are still able to convince loads of people that they are the ones who are supporting righteousness by fighting to leave the LGBT community vulnerable!

 Good As You Images  Good As You Images  Cc Images Serve 0,,1461188,00This latest example comes from the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins (or whoever writes his "Washington Updates"). We well now take it piece by piece:

As the House conducts a contentious mark-up on the "hate crimes" bill today, last week's tragedy reinforces the serious questions about the wisdom of this "hate crimes" bill. Under this legislation, the crimes at Virginia Tech, which some are calling one of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history, would not be punishable to the level of these so-called "hate crimes." If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week's massacre. Despite what its advocates say, this is not about crime--it's about special treatment. What other motivation could there be for forcing the government to devote more energy prosecuting violent acts against gays and lesbians than it would for other citizens? Regardless of whether the targets are homosexual or heterosexual, the majority of crimes are motivated by hate. However, HR 1592 would further carve out "tiers" of victims, putting more importance on crimes committed against a Rosie O'Donnell than against her next- door neighbor. As the House plans its next move on legislation that could forever change U.S. criminal law, FRC and its allies are redoubling their efforts to ensure that all Americans are protected equally, and effectively, and that the Congress does not go down this misguided path of "thought crimes."

This is sooo one of those situations to which we really just want to respond, "No, actually you're wrong," and move on. However, we will instead try once again to make a difference:

Mr Perkins (or ghost writer): First off, it is disgusting the way you "pro-family" kids have begun to use the VA Tech tragedy to further your political goals. That situation has not ONE THING to do with hate crime protections for ANYONE. Hate crimes laws are mean to punish offenses where a specific group is targeted, in the kind of act that can send terror down the spine of the entire community. The VA Tech victims were not one specific population whose killer was motivated by bias (despite Matt Barber's clumsy attempt to classify them as the "rich kid" community). They were an unfortunate collective who were sadly in the path of a madman determined to pick off any and everything in his path! We can almost guarantee that among the victims were some members of the gay community, just as there were people of varying faiths, backgrounds, ages, races, and genders. However, their individual characteristics are not the least bit important in terms of the law. Their murder was indeed an act of hate, but one for the sanctity of life in general, not one for a specific group!

Ugh, we feel disgusting even talking about them in these terms! Moving on...

The main problem we see with your above words, Mr. Perkins (or underling), is the same we see with so many of your "pro-family" peers. You are asserting that gays in general -- such as Rosie O'Donnell, who you clearly have used to elicit just a little more negative sentiment from your conservative peeps -- will be held in a special class and that crimes against members of the LGBT community will be punished more harshly. But the intellectual pitfall here is the idea that
any and all crimes perpetrated against a gay person will be punished as hate crimes. That is nowhere close to the truth! A burglary at Ms. O'Donnell's house will not be handled any differently than one at her neighbors, except in a situation where the perp also chose to decorate her walls with sentiments like "Lesbians deserve to die!" Even then, the criminal will be tried in court, and it will be up to the prosecution to prove that the crime was in fact bias-motivated. It's not like we're talking about a situation where fairness and the American way of justice are thrown out the door so that we gays can turn all petty theft incidents committed against us into life sentencing for the perps! Just like is currently the case with other minority sects -- it has to actually BE a hate crime in order to be a hate crime!

And then, Mr. Perkins, just when we thought we'd get away without the "thought crimes" claim, you break out in the last two words. And since you've chosen to go there, let us again say to your likely deaf ears that this is complete and utter bullsh*t. Unless your thoughts are criminal, we are not talking about your brain's inner processes or the words that your cerebral cortex sends to your lips when we talk about HR 1592! Without a criminal act committed, there is no discussion! And as we've said several times before: Unless a religious person is literally planning on beating a gay with his Bible and shoving a cross up the hole they consider "unnatural," then they have nothing to worry about! It's just like with groups who hold antipathy for other sects of the population. They are free to hold rallies, conventions, public demonstrations, and express their ideas just about as freely as they please. However, the firebombing of a synagogue or historically black church is another story entirely. What we're talking about with these hate crimes protections is not words and ideas, but rather actions and violence.

We understand WHY you oppose this legislation, Mr. Perkins: Its passage would cast you and your cronies in roles that are less easy to defend. You guys deny that there is any sort of hate or bias in play in your anti-gay endeavors, and any attempts to protect the target of your antipathy from physical pain shines a spotlight on the "righteousness" of your own socio-politic-religo campaigns. But Mr. Perkins, we have experienced the
true fear that comes from bias-motivated criminal acts. We full-well know the target that is still all-too-present on the gay community's back, so with this matter more than perhaps any other, it is of utmost importance for us to challenge the fallacies that you and your allies are trying to have accepted as truth. The stakes for us are far too high to sit back and let you try and stem this tide!

Any questions?

Mark-Up Can't Make Up for Bill's Injustice [FRC - Wash. Update]

**Also, in terms of the whole "thought crimes" thing: It can not be stated enough that this version of hate crimes protections includes a specific ban on the use of speech or association to prove criminal activity, unless it specifically relates to the crime at hand.

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Your thoughts

I love how these "pro family" sites run these articles to tell their skewed version of a story but then don't offer a "comments" section for people to express their views or refute their claims...

Posted by: Scott | Apr 26, 2007 7:06:05 PM

WHO'S BEHIND 'HATE' LAWS ?

To find out, Yahoo or Google "The Earliest 'Hate' Criminals" while it is still legal in America to read it!
Marge

Posted by: Marge Alley | Apr 26, 2007 8:42:10 PM

If I assault someone because I am angry at them, it is really a hate crime in my mind. However, when specific groups of people are targeted within the general population routinely action does need to be taken to address and attempt to rectify that situation.
If I were to assault a person because of their Christian beliefs, calling them such things as say "Jesus f***ers", and saying all Christians should die, I think hate crime legislation protecting religious beliefs would certainly come into play, and I doubt if I got a more severe sentence due to my verbal tirade, that any Christian would object and say that it isn't necessary, and I should only be given a normal punishment for assault.
I would never in my life assault someone, but I do loathe religion, and I speak about it. My thoughts are my own, and no "thought police" have come to take me away or stifle my voice.
Please hate gay people, speak with pride about your hate of us, I care of course, but if you silence one group you have to silence them all. Just as much as if you protect one group, you need to do the same for all (barring that which is criminal).

Posted by: Matthew | Apr 26, 2007 11:38:09 PM

I've spent a lot of time digging into the Hate Crimes research in a few recent posts. You can find them by searching for Hate Crimes at my blog. Now let’s address some of Mr. Perkins illogical and truth free comments:

"If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week's massacre. Despite what its advocates say, this is not about crime--it's about special treatment. What other motivation could there be for forcing the government to devote more energy prosecuting violent acts against gays and lesbians than it would for other citizens?"

Wrong. If H.R. 1592 were passed people of *all* sexual orientations and gender identities would be protected equally and to the same degree that existing protected classes of race, color, national origin, religion, or disability are covered today. What current hate crimes legislation does already is treat bias related crimes differently in sentencing based on the degree of harm. If there are no objections to this practice for the existing protected classes of race, color, national origin, religion, or disability, then there is no basis for objecting to them for sexual orientation or gender identity either.

“Regardless of whether the targets are homosexual or heterosexual, the majority of crimes are motivated by hate. However, HR 1592 would further carve out "tiers" of victims, putting more importance on crimes committed against a Rosie O'Donnell than against her next- door neighbor.

Wrong. Existing hate crimes legislation is well established in jurisprudence and there are already “tiers of victims” defined in the currently protected classes. If Mr Perkins has no objections to the currently protected classes of race, color, national origin, religion, or disability, then there is no basis for objecting to the classes of sexual orientation and gender identity either. If Mr Perkins objects to any “tier of victims” then he is for abolishing hate crimes for all currently protected classes, and making other criminal sentencing identical and outcome based regardless of the degree of harm. For example, someone who kills a person with a gun would receive the same sentence as someone who might have tortured, raped, dismembered and then killed their victim.

“As the House plans its next move on legislation that could forever change U.S. criminal law, FRC and its allies are redoubling their efforts to ensure that all Americans are protected equally, and effectively, and that the Congress does not go down this misguided path of "thought crimes." “

Wrong. Existing hate crimes law for protected classes is well established and thought has never been criminalized under the existing legislation. H.R. 1592, like other bias crime legislation before it, identifies and targets bias driven criminal acts only, speech and thought are not covered. The only circumstances where speech may be covered is in cases where an individual incites others to bias related criminal acts. An example might be a leader in a White Supremacist group whose speech incites group members to a criminal act based on racial bias.

In the current FBI Hate Crime Statistics (2004) there are some critical shortcomings with the breadth of collection and how the numbers are presented:

• Neutral categories hide the specific sub-groups in each that report by far the most hate crimes
o Race: Black = 67.6% of all reports
o Religion: Jewish = 69.4% of all reports
o Sexual Orientation: Gay (GLB) = 97.2% of all reports
• Incident statistics track total counts and don’t account for differing population sizes of these targeted groups
• Gay people report more personal vs. property based hate crimes
• Gender and Gender identity not tracked at all under Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990

To learn more about how to rebut the nonsense being spouted about H.R. 1592, drop by my blog where I have links to the base data, reporting, and analysis.

~GC

Posted by: The Gay Curmudgeon | Apr 27, 2007 10:30:07 PM

GC: You have certainly done some nice research. Honestly, in all of the situations I've covered, I've never seen a point so grossly misrepresented by so much of our opposition.

The sad thing is that I would be willing to bet that the majority of them truly know better, but they also know that by presenting ideas like "thought crimes," they'll be able to confuse many of their followers (who are likely less versed in the matter at hand and willing to accept their rhetoric as gospel). It's truly disgusting.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Apr 27, 2007 10:52:17 PM

Ah, yes. Non sequiturs and lies, with a liberal coating of righteous indignation and bamboozlement makes the prejudice go down.

All the arguments that our opponents make attacking the law structurally, attacks all other hate crimes laws equally. Isn’t it strange that in so many of our equal rights battles, the enshrinement of a specific protected class in law, religion, is used as a “zero sum” argument to prevent us from attaining exactly the same protections.

Why is religious freedom the unique master key that magically can lock any group out of equality under the law?

If same-sex couples gain marriage equality, opposite sex couples are “under attack”. If people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are protected by hate crimes laws, it is strangely just the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and people who are getting “special rights”.

Here is where the maxim “Always mix a lie in with a truth” comes into play. The overwhelming majority of all reported sexual orientation bias crimes (97.2% in 2004) target Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. Heterosexuals are equally protected, but in reality they are not equally targeted.

Try this simple thought experiment. Blacks are the target of 67.6% (2004) of all reported race-based bias crimes and Jews are the target of 69.4% of all reported religion-based bias crimes. Now let’s try swapping race and religion for sexual orientation, and Black and Jewish people for GLB people in their argument:

“If the House approves H.R. xxxx and the Senate follows, a black person would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week's massacre. Despite what its advocates say, this is not about crime--it's about special treatment. What other motivation could there be for forcing the government to devote more energy prosecuting violent acts against black people than it would for other citizens?"

“If the House approves H.R. xxxx and the Senate follows, a Jewish person would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week's massacre. Despite what its advocates say, this is not about crime--it's about special treatment. What other motivation could there be for forcing the government to devote more energy prosecuting violent acts against Jewish people than it would for other citizens?"

The wrongness is clear.

These arguments don’t even pass the red face test, yet here they are in the marketplace of ideas gaining support.

We hear a lot about freedom of religious speech and action, but no one has made a cogent argument for what it is they lose when other groups are protected equally. I’d suggest their sense of superiority, entitlement, and a convenient shield for their prejudices.

~GC

Posted by: The Gay Curmudgeon | Apr 29, 2007 12:45:07 PM

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