Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hate crimes bill moves closer to passage

From the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

Anti-LGBT leaders argue that hate crimes laws punish unpopular but constitutionally protected thought and speech. But hate crimes laws are designed to punish actions, not thought or speech. Hate crimes send a message of terror to an entire group and are therefore unlike a random act of violence. For example, the brutal murder of James Byrd, who was chained to the bumper of a truck and dragged down a street in Texas, sent a chilling message to African-Americans that racial violence and murder remain continued threats. Likewise, LGBT people wonder whether they will be the next Matthew Shepard.

Those who murder police officers face higher penalties than people who murder civilians, and terrorists who target federal buildings face higher penalties. In 1999, Congress passed a law that created harsher sanctions for countries that persecute religious freedoms. Such laws are not viewed as valuing some lives more than others. Instead, they send a message that certain crimes that strike at this country’s core values, such as the freedom to live free of persecution, will be punished and deterred by both enhanced penalties and federal involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.