Yasmin Nair

Why Hate Crimes Legislation Is A Terrible Idea: A Reminder

Filed By Yasmin Nair | July 17, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: GENDA, hate crimes legislation, prison industrial complex, Sylvia Riviera Law Project

We've seen a number of posts supportive of hate crimes legislation. The widespread perception is that only hate-mongering Republicans are against it, but in fact a lot of queer radical activists and groups are against it for entirely different reasons. Below are excerpts and links to just two examples of dissent. The first is a Sylvia Riviera Law Project Statement in April of this year that addressed the addition of hate crimes legislation to NY's Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the second is a piece I wrote for Bilerico some months ago. Note that the SRLP statement was co-signed by FIERCE,
Queers for Economic Justice, Peter Cicchino Youth Project, and Audre Lorde Project.

I'm working on collecting statements from a number of grassroots queer radical groups that are also against HCL; if you know of one in your area, drop me a line. I don't want to give the impression that queer resistance can only be counted if it occurs within the framework of the Non Profit Industrial Complex. There's a lot of amazing and usually unfunded queer radical work being done on prison abolition work, for instance, and I know those folk are against HCL as well.

Links and excerpts after the jump.

I know this is likely to incite, shall we say, intense discussion. My point in providing these links here is to simply offer an alternative perspective on the issue, one that a lot of people may not have encountered or considered, given the way in which the gay media in particular portrays HCL as a progressive and much-needed reform. I'm writing a much longer critique of HCL, and I haven't yet revisited my own earlier piece as I collect more data and analysis. I'm happy to have questions and critiques addressed to this post, and would be especially happy to be pointed to other critiques of HCL, or sent updates in relation to specific pieces of legislation. My hope for this piece is that it will encourage people to debate the matter in civil terms. Or at least to reflect on why we've invested so much hope in HCL.

From April 2009:

SRLP announces non-support of the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act!

As a nation, we lock up more people per capita than any other country in the world; one in one hundred adults are behind bars in the U.S. Our penalties are harsher and sentences longer than they are anywhere else on the planet, and hate crime laws with sentencing enhancements make them harsher and longer. By supporting longer periods of incarceration and putting a more threatening weapon in the state's hands, this kind of legislation places an enormous amount of faith in our deeply flawed, transphobic, and racist criminal legal system. The application of this increased power and extended punishment is entirely at to the discretion of a system riddled with prejudice, institutional bias, economic motives, and corruption.

And:

There might be some cold comfort in "enhanced sentencing" if it actually benefited our communities in any way. Unfortunately, the harsher penalties of hate crime laws have not been shown to prevent or deter hate crimes. It is hard to imagine that someone moved to brutally attack a trans person would pause to consider that they might get a longer sentence. In fact, there is some evidence that longer sentences actually increase the chance that an incarcerated person will repeat a crime after they are released. Incarceration does nothing to address the root reasons why someone was violent or hateful; it only plunges them into deeper poverty, further isolates them from their community, and subjects them to further violence and trauma.

Read the rest here.

From my Bilerico piece: Loving Hate: Why Hate Crimes Legislation Is A Bad Idea

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/02/loving_hate_why_hate_crimes_legislation.php

No one can deny that particular groups are in fact treated with discrimination and even violence. But rather than ask how about how to combat such discrimination and violence, we've taken the easy route out and decided to hand over the solution to a prison industrial complex that already benefits massively from the incarceration of mostly poor people and mostly people of color. It's also worth considering the class dynamics of hate crimes legislation, given that the system of law and order is already skewed against those without the resources to combat unfair and overly punitive punishment and incarceration.

And:

We already have punishments in place for crimes, even the most violent ones. Whom does it benefit to enhance penalties for the same? Mandatory and draconian drug laws have done nothing to impede drug use, and only serve to increase the scope of surveillance against the poorest neighbourhoods, where laws against even the casual use of marijuana are used to haul the most marginal into jail.


Read the rest here.

For more on how queer activists are resisting the growth of the prison industrial complex, and their critiques of hate crimes legislation, go to QEJ's archive of a phone conference on Police, Prisons and Queer Organizing. This features, among others, a new Seattle-based group, Queer and Trans Jail Stoppers.

Here's the link to QEJ's archive on Police, Prisons, and Queer Organizing.


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I'm just going to get this in here early and say that there is a history of nasty comments on Yasmin's posts, and I'll be around and monitoring, which I really don't want to have to do but many people have shown that they can't discuss these issues. If someone crosses the line, don't respond in kind to save face. Just email me (contact form up at the top of the page).

Please keep the discussion focused on substance.

From what I've seen and read, it's your readership who could use some protection from this writer, who seemingly is in favor of nothing.

No true! She is in favor of having local and state governments continue to ignore homophobic hate crimes rather than allow federal intervention.

I'd hope our readership is a little smarter and more independent than that. :)

Yasmin has her fans and her critics, but the conversations that arise are usually pretty lively - and when kept on topic and off of personal attacks - they also tend to be interesting debate.

I was merely trying to make the point that it is Ms. Nair's negativism and leftist polemic that incite strong reaction to her posts, and that the notion that she somehow needs protection from Mr. Blaze is patently absurd.

Your readership, however, risks guilt by association by merely logging in to a site featuring Ms. Nair's writings, since she surely (and proudly,I suspect) must be on SOMEBODY's lefty wingnut watchlist.

Did I go too far??

I think what you're taking as "protecting" is more just moderation. We often put up a comment like that right away when we know it will be a controversial post. We really try hard to keep the discussions civil (otherwise no one learns anything from each other and it devolves into "You stink and you're ugly too!" comments that do nothing to further a discussion.

One of the main goals of the Project is to allow all aspects of the LGBTQ community to participate in discussions instead of just running the usual "I'm gay and I'm proud!" or strictly news posts you can find anywhere else. Yasmin's views may be unpopular with some sets, but she has her supporters as well - which I think is important to note. We don't all march in lockstep and it's good to point that out sometimes.

We don't want to censor (it goes against the grain of the Project!) so we put out the warnings to stay on topic and avoid personal attacks. :)

Hope this helps clear it up. We're the moderators; we don't take sides on the argument at hand - just whether or not a comment is acceptable under the comment policy.

"I think what you're taking as "protecting" is more just moderation. We often put up a comment like that right away when we know it will be a controversial post."

Unless you happen to mention a contributor is transphobic, then all hell breaks loose.

Marla Stevens | July 17, 2009 7:00 PM

I couldn't agree more.

The gist of this argument is that we should forego justice because the system sucks, as if that will fix the system.

Yeah, right, sure -- and I'll bet she's got a nice bridge for sale in Brooklyn, too.

Alex -- this is nicer than the comment it could be boiled down to, which is, simply, "Horsepucky!" or the street vernacular thereof.

Marla Stevens | July 17, 2009 7:13 PM

P.S. I actually work on prison justice issues -- predominantly right now on eliminating juvenile life without parole sentencing and creating a saner juvenile justice system that takes into account new research on frontal cortex brain development that affects planning and judgement that is far slower than criminal law thus wrongly now holds young people past certain bright line ages in most states fully accountable for. In so doing, I necessarily work on issues of racial and sexual and sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in our justice system -- from criminal investigation through release eligibility. I've earned my cred on this one and, in contrast, can spot a lip-service phony a mile away.

That sounds like a good reason for you to write a post, Marla. We haven't had one from you since January! I know you'd do the subject "justice."

Yasmin, you forgot to say that you are dedicating your post to Matthew Shepard and Charlie Howard.

Is there anything on the gay agenda that you actually support?

Do you oppose hate crime protections for other groups, or only for LGBTQ?

Is there anything on the gay agenda that you actually support?

That's a good question, Pete - and I think it could lead to a positive discussion too... I'd also be interested to hear what Yasmin supports as versus opposes. Her recent posts have made her "seem" rather negative while I know she's not that way at all in real life. (She's rather perky and spunky!)

So while it might be a little off topic from strictly hate crimes, I'd also like to see what you do support, Yasmin.

(And no pulling the beauty queen standard, "I would like to see world peace..." stuff either. *grins*)

Honestly I don't think there's an issue with "too much negativity." I find most LGBT blogging very negative, because if you're following LGBT news right now and you're not angry, depressed, or enraged, then you're simply not paying attention.

And focusing on those feelings instead of the substance seems to really be a distraction.

FWIW, I can see her point. We think prison will solve all our problems, from drug use to hate crimes. There was even a time not too long ago when people thought prison would stop homosexuality (haha). Decreasing prison power and imprisonment is a politically untouchable topic, and it should be brought up more often.

Bil,

Remind me to come over there and pinch your ears for revealing such secrets :-) I thought we had a deal - you're supposed to help me keep up the facade, and *I* make everyone else on Bilerico look like an angel.

But seriously, to Pete and all the others: I think there's a host of problems with that question. First of all, it's not just off topic but a distraction. Secondly, it should be obvious from all my posts so far that I'm critical of the mainstream gay movement for its emphasis on an agenda that's entirely driven by a desire to accrue social and economic influence at the cost of increasing inequality, and the desire to increase the scope of the prison industrial complex.

It should stand to reason that anyone who's against that is for a just society where everyone is allowed access to the basics like health care regardless of marital status, and where people aren't unfairly targeted by a vicious prison system that delights in locking up people for life or worse.

But here's my main point:

Framing my posts within terms like "negative" or "for" or "against" implies that there is nothing wrong with the gay agenda. Or that the gay agenda is implicitly a "positive" and that any critique of said gay agenda is automatically a negative.

Now: I'm not going to respond any more to this particular query. I wrote this post in large part because I wanted to hightlight two facts:

a) A lot of queers are against hate crimes legislation for excellent reasons, and they're not Right-wing bigots.

b) There are some excellent groups and individuals, many of them working without money or governmental support, who are dedicated to a project of prison abolition; who are against the spread of the prison industrial complex; and who see hate crimes legislation as one more tool to shove the most marginalised into prisons purely for profit. I encourage everyone to take the time to read the posts I've linked to, and also listen to the phone conference that's archived on QEJ. The scope of the work being done by these activists is breathtaking and humbling.

Instead of burying our heads in the sands of a "What's Yasmin really for?" distraction, perhaps we'd all be better off examining how and why the "gay community" feels the need to support the kind of legislation that needlessly jails the very people it claims to protect. That ensuing discussion may well be the most positive thing to come out of this.

Kathy Padilla | July 17, 2009 4:23 PM

I just don't see this statement yet supported by the facts:

"perhaps we'd all be better off examining how and why the "gay community" feels the need to support the kind of legislation that needlessly jails the very people it claims to protect."

have you got any stats on the make-up of people charged under hate crimes laws & the sentences they received?

All I've heard is supposition thus far.

Perhaps in a future post then? I think after the recent few posts that have had everyone worked up with "Yasmin opposes...", I think they might be surprised at what you support. (I happen to know she's got some very bright ideas on where the movement should be headed.)

It sounds like she's made it very clear what she supports - she supports ending the prison industrial complex that controls too much in our society. I don't understand this line of questioning...isn't saying what she's against and what she supports just two sides of the same coin?

Justin,

That's really well put. I, too, don't understand this line of questioning. It should not have been raised in the first place.

I added on because it's my job to get contributors to write posts. *grins* I think adding a post on the prison industrial complex and how it relates to hate crimes legislation - but focuses on a way we can work for justice in that regard (true justice and not just "lock 'em up and throw away the key") would make for another interesting post.

Plus, I often find myself writing posts that critique something without offering a possible solution. I try to realize that and work it into another post later.

I'm not trying to say anything about good vs bad on the posts - just suggesting that it would be an interesting topic to explore later. :)

Support, as an alternative to the criminal industrial complex, investment in community-based responses to violence -- restorative justice and transformative justice programs and projects. Support work to build alliances across communities and transform our communities from the bottom up.

Generation Five is a great group to check out to learn more about the transformative justice framework some Queer organizers are beginning to use for antiviolence work-

http://www.generationfive.org/


(...I understand why Yasmin chooses not to engage the folks who accuse her of being "against everything," because accusation of negativity are such an easy way to discredit arguments that make us uncomfortable w/o engaging the content of the argument. But at the same time, I think leftists and progressives do need to spend more time communicating the proactive work we're doing to transform the world. But polemicists like Yasmin will always be necessary to reorient a conversation gone so far astray.)

i'm sick and tired of hearing about matthew sheppard.

no one cares about shit until it starts effecting cisgender white dudes...

right on yasmin!

i initially saw this on racialicious

Brad Bailey | July 17, 2009 3:51 PM

What is this? A re-hash of older posts? This looks like a cheap attempt to garner more readers. I have yet to hear anything constructive from Yasmin Nair. All I hear is her bitching about every gay cause, and not offering any positive solutions or alternatives. And if this post crosses the line, Alex, then edit away. I think all of her negativity, and your tacit approval of it, has driven a lot of people away from your website.

Once again, Yasmin, you have no clue as to what you are talking about. The main value of federal hate crime protections for LGBTIQ people is that the federal government can finally get involved in cases where the state simply chooses not to pursue a case. If you've been following the news for the last few weeks you will have noticed that the gay panic defense is still working in D.C. and NY, a murderer of a gay teenager gets an early release for his manslaughter charge, and local police in Texas beat a gay man so severely his brain bleeds. ONLY federal involvement in these cases is going to make a change when the local and state government are openly homophobic and believe that LGBTIQ deserve the violence they receive.

I'm curious, would you also advance a states rights argument for the African American Civil Rights Movement? Certainly the issue of racial discrimination in the South was improved when the federal government finally became involved via the Civil Rights Act and etc.

Ultimately, the only solution to countering homophobic local and state government is federal involvement -- which is exactly what this hate crimes bill provides. It is truly sad that you can't see that.

If you've been following the news for the last few weeks you will have noticed that the gay panic defense is still working in D.C. and NY, a murderer of a gay teenager gets an early release for his manslaughter charge, and local police in Texas beat a gay man so severely his brain bleeds. ONLY federal involvement in these cases is going to make a change when the local and state government are openly homophobic and believe that LGBTIQ deserve the violence they receive.

I notice that you specify only DC and NY, which I find to be very interesting. What is your knowledge of things happening out side of mega-cities/states? You want to know why you don't hear about things like gay panic in the south? Because these cases don't make it court in the first place. What motivation would a cop have to report a case like this? Especially when, in many small towns, if not most, cops are the ones who are the ones who are beating the shit out of Fags, Dykes and Transfolk (ESPECIALLY).

This is why federal legislation does not work, because that assumes that the 'system' is not corrupt from the inside, which we all (hopefully) know it is.

Also, I find it very interesting that you only find it necessary to talk about cases involving only men. What about the sexual harassment lesbians face daily from both inside and outside "the community"? Why don't you talk about all the brutal Trans murders that happen daily? Could it be that you don't know about these things, since 'the system'/state does not give a shit about these groups? Maybe? Yes.

I'm curious, would you also advance a states rights argument for the African American Civil Rights Movement? Certainly the issue of racial discrimination in the South was improved when the federal government finally became involved via the Civil Rights Act and etc.

A) I could not be more sick of the "gay community" comparing themselves to the Civil Rights movement. All this gay shit going on is completely different and we need to stop idolizing the Civil Rights movement. Great, yes, its something everyone is familiar with so its a good base for your argument, but a whole lot of really awful, shitty stuff happened within this movement and it was not perfect, nor was it something that has to be replicated.

B) No, the Civil Rights movement was not a success because they got the federal government involved. I have already said it once, but folks in 'the system'/state were THE PEOPLE LYNCHING folks. Who cares what the federal government thinks, when the people who are actually going to enforce what they want, are the ones doing this shit. Also, nothing changed until they were able to change the ways people viewed Black folks. You think the number of lynchings decreased because of a few laws passed? No! What brought change is when it because more socially unacceptable to lynch folks. No law or federal regulation can EVER do the same thing, or make the same change, as changing the way a group of people think and feel about an 'oppressed group'.

Ultimately, the only solution to countering homophobic local and state government is federal involvement -- which is exactly what this hate crimes bill provides. It is truly sad that you can't see that.

See the above thoughts. A summary. Federal involvement will. do. nothing.

First, the post you're responding to did mention TX.

Of course there will always still be corruption in the system, and of course, federal Civil Rights legislation didn't stop racism, and it won't stop homphobia or hate crimes.

However, much of the civil rights movement would have been impossible without Federal involvement. This isn't to say that everything that everyone in the civil rights movement did was fantastic, but you have to admit that real progress was made over the course of the '60s and early '70s--people went from not voting to voting, and lyncings are exgtrmely rare today. Much of that was the fact that federal hate crime laws enabled the feds to come in and charge people because the locals were refusing to do so. Local inaction is the reason for federal hate crime laws, not a counterargument against them

Will it result in 100% protection? No. Will it make it better than the current situation in some places? Almost certainly. At least the Southern victim in your example will then have the option of calling the FBI, rather than the locals that ignore her/him. If they come in and override the locals in at least one case, won't it have at least accomplished something?

bittergradstudent,

Southern Faggot clearly pointed to "mega states," and TX is already well known for being the one with the largest number of death penalty cases.

Here's what I find so ironic - many people who claim to be against the death penalty have no problem with the idea of incarcerating people for life for crimes that would, in other situations, incur lesser sentences.

And as for your statement: "If they come in and override the locals in at least one case, won't it have at least accomplished something?" What will it accomplish, except to prove once again that we have no desire to see change in our communities and are only to happy to have the brutality of the state - this time from the Federal level - inflicted upon local populations? Would you really want to live in a small town that gives up its own law and order system in this way? Is that the kind of community you really want to live in?

First, Southern Faggot did directly say that the poster mentioned 'only DC and NY' and contrasted this against the reality in the South. Whether or not you argue that TX is a megastate, it is certainly not the same sort of place as the extremely urban east coast megalopolis.

Second, Texas does murder a lot of its citizens in its capital punishment system. The people they are killing, however, are not the criminals that are murdering LGBT people, I'll tell you that. They often just go without punishment or report. That is the whole point of this argument.

The type of society I want to live in is one where people know that they can't go and murder LGBT people with complete impunity. I agree that the prison population problem is an immense one, and if hate crime laws were meant to be used in order to simply pile on to existing charges, then I would be extremely leery of them.

They, however, are not. They are meant to be used to move in and prosecute in places where the local police are either committing the atrocities (i.e., Memphis), or in places where the local authorities refuse to act when violence occurs (i.e., Texas). What would you do to protect our communities in these places, where the local authorities were openly hostile? Why do you refuse to use a tool that was effectively used in the '70s to nearly end lynchings, at least relative to their 1950s levels?

It seems in much of what you argue in this thread, you wish to entirely abolish all prisons. That is an interesting position, and it certainly deserves discussion, but it also demands an explanation of how we should defend our communities from violent criminals.

This isn't to say, by the way, that I support private prisons, absurd mandatory sentencing laws for drug violations, the death penalty, or the insanity of our supermax system, or several other associated things. But demanding reform to the prison and criminal justice system is different from saying that it should be abolished outright. If that is your position, then I am actually very curious as to what it's replacement shoudl look like. How do you think society should deal with murderers?

I guess I just don't understand why bias shouldn't be seen as a contributing factor in prosecuting crimes. If you're committing a crime out of hatred for someone's very existence as the main motivation, I think that needs to be taken into account. I don't think having LGBT people as a protected class under hate crimes statutes is a problem. I think the real problem is our prison industrial complex, racist judicial system and the focus on punishment instead of rehabilitation of prisoners (which just increases recidivation because we make it impossible for them to function as citizens when they return to society).

I also feel like comparing hate crimes to the clearly racist and ineffective "War on Drugs" doesn't make much sense. Harsher sentences for violent behavior with the intent to terrorize a community and personal possession and use of drugs are two drastically different issues. Punitive measures may not be the best way to handle either crime, but I feel like some punitive measures in the case of intentional violent crime coupled with rehabilitation makes more sense than the same measures for drug offenses. A disparity in sentencing for regular violence vs. bias based violence with intent to terrorize a community makes more sense than crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine sentencing for an example.

Maybe I just need to stop being bitter in feeling that if you maliciously take away the life of someone else, you deserve to be punished and have the rest of your days taken away from you like you heartlessly did to the person you murdered... but that's just me...

KD108,

The big issue here is with the consequences of HCL - the problem is that it doesn't end with designating something as a hate crime, but with extending penalties so that someone might spend double or triple the time, or even be faced with the death penalty. And that only ends up contributing to what you correctly describe a "racist judicial system and the focus on punishment instead of rehabilitation of prisoners (which just increases recidivation because we make it impossible for them to function as citizens when they return to society)." As the SRLP and others have pointed out, we can't have HCL without increasing the scope of the PIC.

There are no penalty enhancements in the Matthew Shepard act, at least beyond what exists in current law for race-based hate crimes. It authorizes the feds to come in, investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and provides funding for them to do so.

David Holt | July 17, 2009 4:03 PM

"I guess I just don't understand why bias shouldn't be seen as a contributing factor in prosecuting crimes."

Well, then you need to take that up with the British. Intent and bias have been apart of penal codes since the Roman Empire. Our legal system has always considered both the mens rea and the actus reus for crimes.

Marla Stevens | July 17, 2009 7:25 PM

Bravo, David. The answer to "I guess I just don't understand why bias shouldn't be seen as a contributing factor in prosecuting crimes.", besides the legal history basics you raise is: because it is and it has to be proven in court with sufficient evidence for the bias crimes penalty to apply. This isn't easy to do and it shouldn't be but refusing to understand the proven is an exercise in the obstinantly obtuse. Don't waste any more time on Ms. Nair and ilk. Go get the law passed instead.

Kathy Padilla | July 17, 2009 4:05 PM

I guess I feel about hate crimes legislation the same way I do about ending sex discrimination in marriage...I'm curious as to why many opponents of lgbt people having inclusion in these protections & privleges only seem to work to keep us out - but never seem to work on ending existing hate crimes & marriage laws that cover others?

I would also note that the federal law (if memory serves) doesn't include penalty enhancements - correct? So - what we're losing should it not pass is is the chance to have these crimes investigated when local authorities ignore these crimes & bringing additional resources to bear when they're not available in local communities. Given how many of these crimes have been underinvestigated - or when there are questions about local law enforcements actions - such as the Nizah Morris case in Philadelphia - the ability to bring the feds or additional resources in seems useful.

Without coverage of gender identity and/or sexual orientation in the hate crimes law - bringing a "color of law" complaint against local authorities is problematic.

GuestCommenter | July 17, 2009 4:11 PM

For anyone contemplating opposition to the federal legislation that has come to be known as a "hate crimes" bill, read it first.

The federal legislation is written to allow federal resources to take jurisdiction when local authorities are unwilling or unable to adequately prosecute crimes.

Did the local South Carolina authorities act appropriately when accepting the plea deal in the death of Sean Kennedy?

How about the local Washington, DC authorities filing **misdemeanor** charges in the recent death of a citizen there?

If you're convinced that local authorities always can and do fulfill their duty to protect, by all means, oppose the federal "hate crimes" legislation.

The bill's title has the words "Local Law Enforcement" in it for a reason.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! Thank you for being a voice of logic in this discussion. ;)

I would gently remind Yasmin, whom I like and respect, that it took a federal act to prosecute the murderers of civil rights workers in Mississippi.

Similiarly, there are far too many jurisdictions that simply do not take anti-LGBT violence seriously, the fates of Brandon Teena and Marsha P Johnson come to mind.

A federal act allows for some recourse when local prejudices interfere with justice being done.

I agree with Yasmin in not supporting hate crime legislation. In addition to feeling she is correct about the USA's obsession with prisons for almost anything the controlling minority does not desire the common person to have (while usually OK for our rulers) I feel there are two more problems with establishing legally that certain types of people are more important than others when it comes to sentencing people who commit crimes against them.

First, I feel we LGBT people should strive for equality. Not for legal one-upmanship. If a conservative Christian White male is killed that is every bit as horrible a crime as if a LGBT person is killed.

Second, many of our activists encourage a victim mentality. By claiming (erroneously, I might add) that LGBT people are horribly oppressed by crimes against us and getting legislation to support this POV these activists slow our progress rather than enhance it.

As is the media is all too happy to document the few horrendous crimes against us that do occur. We do not need hate crime legislation to pass to continue to have media support which in turn leads to public support.

it seems to me, as was mentioned above, that motivation is the key here.

if you rob someone, and in the course of that robbery you assault them...and later it turns out they're gay...that's not a hate crime.

but if you're our looking for a conservative white christian to assault...and the reason you're doing it is because they're a white christian...that's a different crime, and statute law needs to reflect that difference.

it's not much of a leap of logic to say that assaulting a gay person because they're gay also deserves to be a criminal act...and i'll take it a step further: i would submit that assaulting anyone specifically because of their membership in any group deserves to be a hate crime.

in other words, if you left the house this morining thinking: "i'm gonna find me one of those dirty vegetarians and kick their lousy no-meat-eating ass"...well, that's not the same crime as hitting a more or less random person for "disrespecting" you.

since local jurisdictions are indeed often unwilling to prosecute...and regularly perpetrate...these types of assaults, providing a way to bring in an enforcement authority makes sense, as it has in the past when local enforcement could not be had.

Tara Birl | July 17, 2009 4:56 PM

Hi Yasmin,

I support you! I support this! Throwing more people in jail does *NOT* solve the problem, regardless of WHO they are. A quote from a recent 20 year study (http://bit.ly/3PcRz) : "For boys who had been through the juvenile justice system, compared to boys with similar histories without judicial involvement, the odds of adult judicial interventions increased almost seven-fold," says study co-author Richard E. Tremblay.

This isn't exactly rocket science, but those that get put IN the system, STAY IN the system. So putting people in the system doesn't work.

Yet here we are passing more laws about putting more people in the system. I'm a Transgendered, Disabled, Sex Worker, who has been homeless and has had "hate crimes" against her.

Yet, even I know that to put the people that attack or hate me in jail will only help further their anger. I'd rather spend the time in sharing my story and sharing the transgender, disabled, queer, homeless, sex worker stories, that will help people see us as HUMAN BEINGS, and not objects of hatred.

The mainstream queer agenda is stupid. They keep struggling for power, and really they should be working to end oppression (for us, and everyone else!).

Yasmin, I hope that you continue your amazing work, getting the message out!

With Love,
Tara

Thanks, Tara!

And I especially appreciate you sharing your story with us.

Rick Sours | July 17, 2009 5:06 PM

Hate crimes against members of the LGBT community
are on the increase. Something has to be done to
stop these acts of hate and violence. Whatever
can be done to help prevent or decrease these
acts I welcome. The passage of laws do not
guarantee these act will not occur but maybe
having laws on the books will be a step towards
changing social attitude that it is not acceptable
to verbally and physically harm members of the
LGBT community.

I see all my comments were rejected. Are you censoring posts that don't agree with the perspective in the column?

Not rejected, David. Held for approval.

Remember, no one's getting paid to read your comments and approve them. :) If you want them to post right away, sign up for a user account and your comment will be posted without moderation. You still have to follow the rules under the comment box (no personal attacks, etc), but we give registered users some more freedom and trust.

Once again, we're treated to Yasmin's tenuous grasp of logic.

You start off saying that the reasons for being against hate-crime legislation are distinct from those of right-wingers, yet the argument you provide at the end is a classic right-wing argument against hate-crime legislation, namely the "Why have harsher punishments for what's already illegal?" argument. You follow that with a far-fetched comparison between drug laws and hate-crime laws, as though smoking a joint is somehow equivalent to spray painting a swastika on a synagogue.

Let me see if this sums up the SRLP's argument: We have issue in our justice system with respect to the numbers of people in prison and the periods of incarceration, and there's class and race bias in courts' decisions. Therefore, enhancing punishments for hate crimes, thus resulting in longer and harsher sentences, is wrong. Gee, how logical.

And I also call on you to tell us: What are you in favor of, in terms of GLBT rights? All I've seen is what you're against, and your "queer activism" seems mostly to be social justice activism, albeit as an activist who happens to be a "lesbian who loves cock" (whatever the fuck that means).

I believe the issue at hand shouldn't be whether or not hate crimes legislation is a good or a bad thing. HCL doesn't seem to be relevant to the points being made here.

What does appear to be relevant is that the Justice system and the Corrections system are not working as intended to rehabilitate people and/or prevent crime. I believe that both systems are not working as intended, and there is abundant evidence to support that. But that is an issue entirely seperate from whether or not HCL legislation is a good thing.

Adding additional threat of punishment can reduce the rationally thinking person from committing a hate crime. Of course, that assumes the person is thinking rationally while considering the crime. What should be addressed is the mentality that leads people to a point where they feel that beating the living shit out of a queer girl is a good idea. If we can correct that mentality, then hate crimes laws aren't needed.

That doesn't mean that the two should not co-exist though. HCL should exist hand-in-hand with education efforts and other efforts to reduce anti-gay sentiment. I don't think either should be discarded for the other. But they are two distinct issues, not one in the same.

My thoughts exactly. If Yasmin wants to advocate reform of the prison system and how we punish offenders, then she can probably make a lot of points I would agree with. But instead, she's using this opportunity to advocate against laws supported by most GLBT people, with exception to left-wing contrarians like her and right-wing contrarians like Andrew Sullivan, on the basis of almost totally unrelated issues.

Andrew Sullivan makes it very clear from his column that he has never attended law school.

I can see that there are way too many people who have no idea what the Federal Hate Crimes bill will cover. As soon as I see people saying the they don't like "enhanced sentencing," it tells me they are clueless. I have said hundreds of times on this blog alone what the Federal Hate Crimes bill will and will not cover, but people still whine about "enhanced sentencing." And, they say that Americans have an average of an 8th Grade education. This discussion proves it.

OK Monica obviously this is an area that you have researched and many of us are not as interested in it as you. Rather than complaining that we should already know this because you do and because it is an area of interest for you and you have spoken about it before might there be a chance that you could clarify it and explain it to us while our interest has been piqued?
I've suddenly developed a mild interest here and would rather hear substance. The problem for some of us is that we are not interested enough to make it a personal research project but we would still like some info. The unpleasantness that is developing will soon override the interest of some of us.
I'm interested in positions and clarification through information.

Rob,
I appreciate your response. The Federal Hate Crimes bill will do just four things. (1) It will add four new categories (sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability) to the Hate Crimes Law that already is on the books. (2) It will allow the FBI to collect statistics on those four new categories. (3) It will allow the federal government to allocate funds for small jurisdictions when they are faced with investigating these crimes. (4) It will be used as a message to tell those people who hate us that the federal government will no longer tolerate beating us up or killing us.

There is nothing in there that will enhance penalties. That is something that is done on the state level only. It is used as a smoke screen by Republicans, and too many Americans fall for it. It appears that many who read Bilerico have also fell for it. Since I'm not treated well on this blog and people ignore me, you will probably be the only person who will actually read this.

Thanks Monica, that clears things up a lot for me. Then I can say that ion this issues I can support the hate crimes adjustments.

Penalty enhancement is in the hate crime law already in the books. So, in a way, it will increase the applicability of extant penalty enhancement laws associated with hate crimes.

At least, I think that's what the argument is.

Since you seem to have examined these issues a lot I would like to ask you a couple of more things. First Do the feds already have an ability to investigate murders and assume jurisdiction over them?
Does the hate crimes legislation at the federal level compel investigations or just provide for them if they are otherwise suspected? If so how is this judgment made?

Yasmin,
I'm a bit perplexed here because I see this as two issues which are not necessarily bound one to the other. I'm not certain why or how you are seeing them as connected directly.
In my view one issue is the idea of a federal hate crimes legislation which I myself support. I would welcome the ability of the feds to step in and investigate when local constabularies ignore something or even more tragic when the local cops are the problem.
I also see an issue with a severely disfunctional legal complex which has a destructive prison system which has become an industry. Our colleges give people degrees in how to manage them and market these programs as though they guarantee a job. This is a disgusting situation.
I simply do not see how one of these issues is linked to the other in any way.
I do not think that attacking hate crimes legislation or the idea of crime is going to positively effect the business of prisons.
I was an associate Chaplain in Texas with the prisons to work with prisoners who were adherents to various non-Abrahamaic faiths. I really have seen how screwed up the profession of prisons has become. In that respect your are preaching to the choir.
Can you clarify how you and others are seeing the relationship that binds one issue to another.

Rob,
These things (HCL and the PIC) are intricately related. HCL bolsters the PIC by expanding its reach and developing trust in it by LGBT communities.

The one thing that no one is talking about here is the inefficacy and undesirability of relying on the state/feds to create control our communities. Its not just in some cases that the system is the problem - these issues are systemic in nature. Framing them as aberrations or individual bad people doesn't get to the root of these issues at all. Relying on HCL is in fact relying on our oppressors to save us!

An alternative, as suggested above by Tim, is community-based accountability. Check out ALP's Safe Outside the System Collective for a great model!

I am really perplexed why Alex and Bil are acting as bodyguards for Yasmin. She strives to be controversial rather than illuminating. Let the comments go as they do, without you both talking down to your audience with such paternalistic warnings whenever she posts.

You basically are telling people to "hold back", "go easy", yet her rants are designed to be attacks against the gay agenda and gay organizations no matter what the issue. There are some of us who see these as life and death issues. We witness gay bashing victims in our communities all the time. We know people fired from jobs because they are gay. We are people who have had long term relationships without societal approval or legal rights, and we want marriage. She does not appear to identify with the community at large, and relishes her outsider role. Let her be the ultimate outsider by not publishing her any more.

Not "hold back" or "go easy"... That's expected in a spirited debate. Just be civil to each other and attack the argument/idea instead of the contributor or other commenters. :)

hmm 31 posts already?So we shall see what comes out as im sure they will come out with something and call it a hate crimes bill.Never mind if properaly applied most so called hate crimes can be prosecuted as normal crimes and achieve the same goal.The key is not to just say ok that person was TG or Gay and ignore the crime they got beat up over or worse killed for.But to many just say so deal with it which is why we do need a bit extra push to be applied on crimes like this.

I appreciate Yasmin's posts because they cause me to have to evaluate what and why I support something (or don't). In fact, she's one of the few regulars I actually will comment on.

The justice system has been in bad shape for a long time and there is ample evidence of its bias (particularly against youth and young men of color who are poorer - as a former family therapist I could practically predict a more severe sentence if the youth I was working with was a youth of color).

But, I also tend to agree with what Rick Sours wrote above:
"Whatever can be done to help prevent or decrease these acts I welcome. The passage of laws do not
guarantee these act will not occur but maybe
having laws on the books will be a step towards
changing social attitude that it is not acceptable
to verbally and physically harm members of the
LGBT community."

Honestly, I did think that the legislation would enhance sentencing so the comments to this post about what it will do were enlightening.

I liked what Tara wrote best:
"Yet, even I know that to put the people that attack or hate me in jail will only help further their anger. I'd rather spend the time in sharing my story and sharing the transgender, disabled, queer, homeless, sex worker stories, that will help people see us as HUMAN BEINGS, and not objects of hatred."

Even if the legislation did do everything I would want it to do (as far as what Rick wrote above) the most important work is what Tara wrote above.

Rob, and others,

First, my post is a critique of hate crimes legislation overall, including that at the state level. The SRLP statement, for instance, was especially targeted at the NY laws. Second, there cannot be HCL without some form of penalty enhancement, period. It would be naive of anyone to assume that the Feds, of all people, are going to benignly collect data and not use it to implicitly or explicitly ask/push for penalty enhancement in some form.

Also, it's important to remember that penalty enhancement works in different ways - if public pressure is brought to bear upon prosecutors by the gay community insisting that a crime be treated as a bias crime, the odds are very likely that the alleged attackers will be given heftier sentences or even the death penalty.

Take, for instance, a situation of a murdered out gay man whose death might be wrongly determined a suicide by police. The fact that he was killed *as* a gay man does not necessarily mean that he was being killed *for* being a gay man. Now, is it likely that the police engaged in a slipshod investigation *because* he was a gay man? Possibly. But none of this means that the victim was actually killed *for* being a gay man. Hate crimes legislation in this case is likely to be deployed if gays make enough of a fuss and insist that the murder was a bias crime. But you see the problem here: the possible homophobia of the police in not investigating the death properly becomes, in the public eye, a murder committed for homophobic reasons.

Now, let's say they find the killer. Do you really think that the prosecutors, now under public scrutiny and faced with the wrath of a, frankly, bloodthirsty gay community that wants revenge, are going to give him/her the standard number of years? Or do you think that they will give him/her life/the death penalty? I think we know the answer.

The idea that HCL can operate in a benign fashion is due to some extraordinary and perhaps willful naivete on the part of gays and lesbians about how the law works in practice. We would like to believe that the dispensation of law is impartial - even as we ask for something like HCL which is entirely about seeking and finding "bias" in a crime, as if the commission of a crime - murder, for instance, and the punishment for it that's already in the books -- is not enough.

Alexander Cockburn puts it well in a recent piece: "Goodbye to equality under the law. How will a prosecutor prove that a lesbian was murdered because of her sexual orientation rather than because she refused to give the mugger her purse? Given the way case law evolves and the manner in which prosecutors advance their political careers, crimes against some types of victims will incur greater penalties, with this injustice spurring resentment."

http://tinyurl.com/l9tnpu

The SRLP puts it no less cogently: "Any legal weapon that’s created to make our justice system more harsh and punitive cannot be trusted in the hands of institutions that have shown their prejudices and corruption time and time again."

There are different issues here. Undeniably, crimes against queers are notoriously underreported. The question of how we resolve that will not be solved by throwing people into jail, or construing bias where there might have been none in the first place. Hate crimes legislation encourages us to focus only on the prison industrial complex as a solution without considering the multiple factors that arise around a crime.

For instance: It's a fact that violence against transgender sex workers is often underreported or just unreported. It's a fact that they often face that violence *because* they are transgender sex workers. But that's not always the case. What we know for sure is that transgender sex workers are marginalised by a criminal justice system which does not give a damn about them precisely *because* they are often the most marginal and most vulnerable in the street economy; they're caught in a Catch-22. Their marginality and vulnerability come about in large part because of their gender identity/sexual orientation. They are, in essence, twice marginalised - by an economy in which they struggle and by a criminal (in)justice system that will not step in to prevent violence against them.

It's their economic vulnerability and class identity which makes them targets of violence as much as their gender identity/sexual orientation. The same is true of female street sex workers - how many times do we hear about their killings/violence against them?

Consequently, creating HCL that implicitly or explicitly, at the state or federal level enhances penalties enlarges the coffers of the PIC - it does nothing to reduce the economic and physical vulnerability of sex workers in the street economy. Needless to say, the "hate crimes" that the gay community is most concerned about are rarely the ones committed against the most marginal among us. When it does take notice of such crimes, it does so in the most cynical way.

So, to answer your question about the links between the two - there is no such thing as a benign form of HCL which merely documents and "sends a message" about crimes against "us". HCL is entirely about creating new categories of crimes and bodies with which to fill up the PIC. To return to the SRLP statement: "The real victims who are liable to be thrown to the wolves in this case are the most marginalized members of trans and gender non-conforming communities: poor people, people without jobs or housing, people who resort to survival crimes in order to get by or access health care, people with substance abuse problems, sex workers, youth, people with disabilities, and so many more who are disproportionately targeted for violence, harassment, prejudice in the courts, and incarceration."

That's the link.

In conclusion, I strongly, strongly urge everyone to read through all the materials I've linked to. And I especially encourage you to listen to the presentations made at the QEJ conference call. There are some extraordinary acts of resistance against the PIC going on, critiquing HCL is part of that resistance, and we should all join in it.

Yasmin,
You said: "Second, there cannot be HCL without some form of penalty enhancement, period."

This is your opinion and not based on any facts, since the new version of the Hate Crimes Bill hasn't passed yet. You are assuming there will "penalty enhancement" based on your strong mistrust of the government. I mistrust the government as well, but I will not generate conspiracy theories because of it.

You have done a lot of good articles based on solid facts, but this part of this article is not one of them. Please stick to your MO, because it makes people think. And, when they argue with you, they look like the fools they are.

Kathy Padilla | July 18, 2009 12:31 PM

Again - it's completely unsupported assertion that lgbt peoples & other marginalized groups will be the ones who are charged in hate crimes & receive greater sentences. Unsupported even by anecdotal evidence. It seems much more likely that the people charged in hate crimes will be straight white males.

And the evidence we have thus far is that people brought up on hate crimes charges - at least where the victim is transgender - will still receive lesser sentences than for cisgender victims. But the decision rendered by the courts will come closer to that where the victim is cisgender.

Lateisha Green's killer was convicted of manslaughter - not murder. He hasn't been sentenced yet - but it will be much less than if he was convicted of murder - which I believe would have been the case with a different victim.

Gwen Araujo's killer's were convicted of voluntary manslaughter (2 of her killers) & second degree murder (2 of her killers)- the hate crimes portions were thrown out by the court. They received sentences fare less than if the victim were cisgender.

Angie Zapata's murder is the third of the three cases where hate crimes stautes were used in conjunction with a transgender victim thus far. Her murderer was sentenced for first degree murder & received a sentence of life in prison.

There can certainly be principled objections to hate crimes - but they can't start with separate standards of justice for lgbt victims than others whose murders were motivated by similar hate.

I have to take a minute here to respond to the suggestions by some that what's really needed here is for the victims of violence to reach out to the perpetrators of it. As someone who's been assaulted - I really don't care to put myself in that amount of risk to my well being again, thank you. I invite you to bring that discussion to rape crisis centers.

The PIC hasn't been clamoring in support including gender identity in hate crimes legislation. There's been no deluge of their lobbyists on the Hill or free flowing of their PAC money on the issue. The support has totally been from within the lgbt community. And much, much more could be done in that cause by working towards eliminating non-violent drug offenses than the comparibly tiny number of cases that will come from come from this legislation.

My understanding is multiple people of color have already been charged with hate crimes against whiteness.

These are valueless laws that do not make any distinction between dominant and marginalized groups in their execution.

Thanks Yasmin, this is all getting a lot clearer to me now. I'm still not sure that I am willing to stop supporting hate crimes legislation but I certainly can appreciate the source for your position.

Thanks for this post, Yasmin. Have you seen the piece by the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker service organization) about HCL? It was written in 2002 about a different piece of legislation, but I think their argument is still relevant for this debate:

"Our position is not one of idealism or ideological purism, but is born of our long and painful experience that piecemeal reforms of the criminal justice system, intended to serve entirely worthy purposes, frequently lead to strengthening the institutional violence of that system. The good intentions of reformers often do not translate with integrity in to actual practice. This is particularly so when the reforms sidestep difficult questions about the race and class biases that pervade the criminal justice system, and the violence, dehumanization, and rampant abuses of human rights within that system." (Source: http://www.afsc.org/ht/d/ContentDetails/i/3462)

I think that HCL addresses the wrong cause of violence against LGBT people. Instead of punishing perpetrators AFTER someone from our community has been attacked, we need to address the source of the problem--namely, homophobic and transphobic attitudes that still pervade our society as well as our justice system, which continues to ignore crimes against our community as well as perpetrate more crimes via inaction, brutality, and the prison system.

Will the threat of (harsher/more certain) punishment really deter those who hate our communities so much that they are willing to attack and murder us? Will those who are sentenced as a result of hate crimes legislation come out of incarceration hating us less? I highly doubt it. While HCL helps give us the sense that justice is being served, it does little to change the attitudes in our society that lead to violence against LGBTQ people in the first place.

Austin,

Thanks for the reminder - yes, I have read the AFSC document, and can't believe I forgot to include it, along with the Alexander Cockburn piece I cited in an earlier response. You're right that "While HCL helps give us the sense that justice is being served, it does little to change the attitudes in our society that lead to violence against LGBTQ people in the first place."

Sadly as we can see from some of the responses and the attitudes in the "community," the thirst for vengeance overrides the need for justice.

beachcomberT | July 18, 2009 8:42 AM

Thanks, Monica, for clarifying a key point. If the Hate-crimes bill contains no mandatory sentencing provisions, I don't think the prisons will get clogged any more than they already are. But as other skeptics point out, the bill is no panacea. Kids need to learn from their parents, teachers, and clergy (or more likely, from their peers, TV and the Internet) that mocking or punching out a queer or trans person is wrong. They won't become more decent just because there's another law on the books.

This is absolutely true. It's not a panacea. I'll be the first to admit that. However, teaching people, especially young people, that it is not acceptable to harm LGBT people, will be a process that will take decades. If the federal government doesn't tell people it's wrong, then they have nothing holding back their hate.

I feel this is absolutely the most important part of this new Hate Crimes bill. This serves as providing the basic synopsis for the course we will be using in educating people on our lives and the worth of our lives. We have to start somewhere on the national level. This bill opens a previously locked door that gives us a big addition to our activism toolbox. I want that addition.

My girlfriend and I attended the trial of Allen Ray Andrade, the convicted murder of an 18 year old transwoman, Angie Zapata. This was the first time hate crime legislation was used in this country, and the prosecutor had to prove that it was a hate crime. It was easy to do because Andrade made vicious transphobic comments in recorded phone conversations while he was incarcerated awaiting trial.
What makes a hate crime a hate crime is that it is intended to send a message to a group of people and to terrorize it. Andraded detested transpersons, and he felt justified in killing "it."
The judge in the case imposed a life plus 60 years sentence on Andrade which I believe was entirely justified in this case.
While Federal hate crime legislation will not put an end to open season on transpersons, perhaps it will slow the addition of names to the Transgender Day of Remembrance list.
The fact that our prison system ism't perfect should not stop us from putting people like Andrade and others away from society for a long time. Cases like this bring attention to the general public, and sentences like this must have a deterring effect.

Shakay,

There's no evidence that such overly long sentences send any kind of a message to future killers; in fact SRLP suggests the opposite. The crime was murder and we have penalties for that; compounding it as a "hate crime" achieved nothing more than increased incarceration. It's not going to change Andrade, and it's not going to prevent such killings from occurring again. We already know that from the cases that have already occurred since then.

What makes a hate crime a hate crime is the desperate need of the prison industrial complex to add more bodies and categories to crime statistics in order to fill up its coffers. The gay community, in its search for vengeance and a need to prove itself compliant with the very system of law and order that still mistreats and wrongfully imprisons the most marginal among us, is buying into the fiction that prosecuting a crime as a "hate crime" will make hatred and intolerance go away.

It won't, it hasn't, and the PIC grows stronger every day.

"What makes a hate crime a hate crime is the desperate need of the prison industrial complex to add more bodies and categories to crime statistics in order to fill up its coffers."

Wait, what? The prison industrial complex has been working to enact hate crimes legislation? This does not make any sense.

Hate crimes legislation is an expansion on our current system of categorizing crimes based on motive and severity; for example, accidentally harming someone is punished differently than intentionally harming someone in a moment of passion is punished differently than harming someone in a premeditated fashion. Hate crimes legislation adds consideration for people who harm others in order to increase the fear and vulnerability of an entire class of people. "Fag-bashing", attacks on transsexual people, the targeting of minorities for violence because they are minorities is meant to keep people in fear, to keep them from being public in the fight for equality.

If you want to deal with over-imprisonment, deal with the ludicrous way we punish victimless crimes, and the war on drugs. Work on regulation of the prison system and oversight of the system as a whole.

The argument that because we have a corrupt penal system and therefore we should strip legal recognition of groups that still face a great deal of economic and social discrimination is disingenuous at best, merely meant to bait commenters at worst, and poorly thought out either way.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | July 18, 2009 1:36 PM

Whether we should have hate crimes laws (Any), is a separate issue from whether we should add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing hate crimes laws. The fact is that we have a federal HCL that covers race, sex, and religion. To avoid making those protections available to GLBT people sends a bad message, especially to our religious opponents, who ARE covered.

Since there is currently no significant push to eliminate all federal HCL, we need to be included under the existing laws. While the system may not always work the way it's supposed to, a federal HCL will send a message to law enforcement in bigoted parts of the country--That they will have a much more difficult time getting away with turning a blind eye to GLBT victims.

Yasmin,

Is there room in your critique for the rights of law-abiding queers to live free from the terror of violent criminal offenders? Or are you only concerned with the rights of those who commit acts of violence to terrorize our communities?

I have long advocated an end to the "War on Drugs" and have been a critic of a prison system so bloated that the U.S. is home to fully 1/4 of the world's inmates. There is much reform that needs to be done to address the racism and classism that pervades the criminal justice system, especially around non-violent crimes that serve mostly as excuses for the government to lock up the poor and people of color.

There is something fundamentally different when someone commits an act of violence against another person. When those crimes are done out of hatred and a desire to terrorize an entire group of people, the crime is so egregious and so violent to our societal standards that the perpetrator MUST be removed from society, for the protection of the targeted victims. Even if penalty enhancement doesn't deter the future crimes of others, it does deter the future crimes of the offender. They can't go out fag bashing if they are stuck in prison.

So, I have to disagree with you on HCL. Our collective right to live free from fear of those who would do us physical harm, simply because we are queer, trumps the rights of those who have committed those offenses. Lock them up longer. Protect we who have not committed violence. Justice demands it.

Sam,

"Lock them up longer."

As I said in my post, I'm working on a longer piece about the problems with HCL, and you just gave me the perfect title.

I wonder if anyone here has considered the not-at-all-remote-possibility that queers themselves are also the target of HCL. Please read the SRLP and other critiques for more on that.

Is there room in your worldview for the possibility that perhaps we ought to devote more resources to undoing the root causes of violence and intolerance, rather simply slamming people in jail?

HCL is not about justice; it's about vengeance, pure and simple.

Yasmin;
We are not very far apart on this. While I deplore "enhanced sentencing," seeing what legislative sentencing mandates have inflicted upon New York and upon the Federal Courts, I do like the idea of los Federales having potential jurisdiction over acts of violence committed out of race, gender or orientation hatreds that might otherwise be ignored by localenforcement agencies and courts too enmired in local prejudices.


A very thought provoking post, and well done.

All laws and repercussions to violating such laws are not at all about justice, but vengeance. This is not something new.

Yasmin is simply the lightning rod equivalent to website hits. Regardless of the sensationalistic timing to her posts, she's featured more by the ire she provokes than for the substance quality in her posts.

Why is this discussion centered around murder and murder only? Murder is not the only form of hate crimes. If a cross is burned on the front lawn of someone's house, without hate crimes legislation, it is nothing more than "starting a fire without a permit." Painting a swastika on a Jewish temple wall becomes simple vandalism. Scratching "faggot" on someone's car is an insurance claim. For Yasmin and others who argue for or against hate crimes, distilling it down to nothing but murder is doing a great injustice to the entire concept of why these bills exist in the first place.

Yasmin, I hate to break it to you, but the Federal Hate crimes law will pass, and you or the Republicans will not stop it from happening. So, this discussion is a moot point.

Hey, Monica,

You raise a good point about the different kinds of "hate crimes" in question here. I'll have a response to that and to Rob's questions as well after this weekend - I'm suffering from extreme tiredness and need to rest up, watching seasons 5-7 of Buffy, with a pile of chocolate by my side. All of which is to say, I appreciate your questions and Rob's, as well as the tenor of your questions/comments, both of you, and am not ignoring them. I'll be back...

As for whether or not the Federal HCL bill will pass or not - hey, that's still up in the air. And besides, come on Monica - *sends playful nudge and a poke through cyberspace* - do you really think my compadres and I are going to stop critiquing HCL even if it passes? :-) A group of us are planning a town hall here in Chicago, regardless of what happens at the Federal level. To misquote the Borg, resistance is never futile.

We may disagree in some ways and agree in others, but I have more respect for you then many other contributors.

Chocolate? You said chocolate? And, you live where?

Thanks, Monica :-)

Oh, yeah, chocolate - I live in Uptown, Chicago, so if you're around, come on by! And if you should pass by the Walgreen's on Wilson and Clark: They're got a great sale going on. Green & Black's Italian organic chocolate, $4 for 2, and Lindt Dark with Chili for $2. I'm in heaven!

And, in the meantime, of course, I trust the conversation will go on. I actually learn a lot from these posts, even from the disagreements, since they help me refine my own thinking.

mixedqueer mixedqueer | July 19, 2009 12:16 AM

i personally do not support HCL for the reasons detailed in the SRLP article.