Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Hate Hate Crimes Legislation, Pt. II

Last year, the redoubtable Bill Dobbs (of ACT UP and just about every progressive activist movement in NYC in the past 20 years) and I discussed hate crimes legislation on the Queer Fist discussion boards. After the jump, our exchange.

Some interesting news from New Hampshire, an effort to repeal the state law that provides enhanced penalties for 'hate crimes.' No doubt some homophobia is helping to propel this effort; NH may just do the right thing, if for some wrong reasons.

There are quite principled reasons to oppose such legislation: Hate crime laws are not only unnecessary but they twist and mangle the criminal law in dangerous ways. There's plenty of law and order on the books already, fines and prison time for those who commit an assault or murder; 38 states and the federal government have
state-sanctioned executions in their punishment toolkits. Hate crime laws enable prosecutors to put defendants on trial for what kind of person they are, for their ideology -- rather than for the wrongful act he or she intended. Such distinctions are lost in the ugly swirl of emotions that are stirred up by those, including gays, who organize around crime victims.

When liberals and other progressives jump on the bandwagon for longer prison terms, for law and order solutions, it is that much harder to make progress on other criminal law reform issues including the abolition of capital punishment. While John Ashcroft has been hammering civil liberties for four years, major gay organizations just beat their drums for federal hate crime legislation. Why would anyone want to help Ashcroft gain more power? Time to derail the hate crime law train.

-Bill Dobbs


Thanks, Bill, for that article and your reflections. I
would love to see Queer Fist do some actions against
hate crime legislation. We all know about the
exercise of legal justice in this country: somehow
it's always poor folks and people of color who end up

Legally and ethically objectionable, hate crimes
legislation is the worst kind of conservative coopting
of the queer movement. I would love to see it more
prominent on the radical agenda.

If anyone wants to brainstorm anti-hate crime
legislation actions, I am totally down.

Also, how the hell is the ACLU *FOR* hate crime
legislation? Jesus Christ.

The leftist critique of hate crimes legislation is so
off the raydar that I can't really imagine having a
lot of success with it, but I'd definitely like to at
least put it ON the raydar.



I don't have the details but the national ACLU has generally favored hate
crime/enhanced penalty legislation. State affiliates have also generally
been in favor (including the NYCLU) with some exceptions. One possible
explanation for their support is that their safeguarding of civil liberties
has been trumped by some 'progressive' politics.

In the 1980s gays began to really push for hate crime laws and over time
lost sight of larger justice and became proud members of the crime victims
rights movement. In the Matthew Shepard case, gay groups built the case up
as the worst murder, ever. After creating a huge amount of pressure and a
prosecutor made death penalty requests, those same groups fell silent about
what the criminal justice system had in the cards.

Here's an interesting screed by Alex Cockburn, I think it was
originally published in The Nation.

Just as with marriage, there are critical voices out there. The challenge
is to get them heard.

-Bill Dobbs

>Tags: news and politics, hate crimes, criminal justice, gay


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