Why Is The Federal Government Worried About “Hate Crimes” ?

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would add sexual orientation as a category to which existing federal “hate crimes” legislation would apply:

WASHINGTON, May 3 — The House of Representatives voted today to extend “hate crime” protection to people who are victimized because of their sexuality. But the most immediate effect of the bill may be to set up another veto showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

By 237 to 180, the House voted to include crimes spurred by a victim’s “gender, sexual orientation or gender identity” under the hate-crime designation, which now applies to crimes spurred by the victim’s race, religion, color or national origin.

“The bill is passed,” Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is gay, announced to applause, most of it from Democrats.

Similar legislation is moving through the Senate. But even assuming that a bill emerges from the full Congress, it will face a veto by President Bush on grounds that it is “unnecessary and constitutionally questionable,” the White House said before the House vote.

The House did not pass the bill by a margin wide enough to override a veto, which requires a two-thirds majority. The Senate is not expected to do so either.

I’m about to write something I don’t think I ever have here at The Liberty Papers…….. President Bush is absolutely correct about this one. The Federal Government does not belong getting involved in prosecuting crimes like this; this should be exclusively a matter for the states.

Personally, I don’t think very much of hate crime laws. If you’re assaulted, does it really matter why someone did it ? And why is it right to punish someone more severely because of who their victim was ? Nonetheless, if states choose to make assaulting someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, then they are free do so.

Andrew Sullivan is, not surprisingly, upset about the threatened  veto and has this to say about the federalism argument:

The federalist argument equally applies. If it is the position of the feds that this should be left entirely to the states, fine. But to say that the feds have a role in matters of race and religion, but not sexual orientation again makes no logical sense, unless the federal government wants to send a strong message about the moral and human and political inferiority of gay people.

From my point of view, though, the federalism argument applies equally against other existing federal “hate crimes” laws. Quite honestly, I think those laws should be repealed and the matter left to the states, where it belongs. Moreover, though, as Dale Carpenter points out, there’s more to this bill than just adding sexual orientation to existing laws:

 The problem with this criticism, however, is that the bill does much more than simply add “sexual orientation” to the existing federal law on hate crimes passed in 1968. It’s a whole new statute. Protecting gays is only one element, though the most publicized. The bill considerably expands federal jurisdiction over hate crimes in general, for all categories, by eliminating the current requirement that the crime occur while the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity. That jurisdictional limitation has kept federal involvement very limited in an area where state authority has traditionally reigned. The new law also calls for more federal resources to be expended on all classes of hate crimes. The veto of an amendment merely adding sexual orientation to existing federal law would pretty clearly reflect an anti-gay double-standard. A veto of this much more comprehensive bill does not.

Given this, the bill is positively screaming to be vetoed. Hopefully, President Bush will follow through with his threat.

  • trumpetbob15

    Why do the states need hate crime bills? For example, either a murder is a murder or it isn’t. Rather than add a new crime where there already is one, let’s just enforce the old one. Instead of letting a murderer get out after a few years, keep the convict locked up for longer, no matter if they kill a member of the same race, religion, etc. or not. So much easier.

  • Kim Brown

    It seem like we are always trying to protect some kind of group. Where does the freedom of speech come in? They say that the religious right are intolerent of the homosexuals but we are suppose to agree with something that is so unnatural and wrong and just keep it to ourselves. I am sorry but I would not be doing them any favors by just ignoring something so unnatural. Where have we gone in this society that we as Christian cannot stand on the basic fundamentals of our faith and hopfull reach a few of them for Jesus Christ. It is the most discusting thing I have ever heard of . In my family we have some homosexuals and I love them , but they know that there behavior is wrong and they know why I say it. Please stay out of things that we do not belong in.