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Hate crimes in the U.S.
Description of U.S. hate crimes
and associated legislation, from
Scope of the 2009 federal hate crimes bill:
A hate crime is a crime of violence that is motivated by
hatred of the group to which the victim belongs. Usually, the perpetrator and the victim are strangers to each other. For example, gay bashing involves a violent homophobe
physically attacking a victim from the lesbian,
gay, and bisexual community. Typically, the main goals are twofold:
To express hatred against a random member of that community, and
To terrorize the entire community of which the victim is a
Some people feel that these goals are very disruptive to society and deserve a lengthened sentence beyond what is given for an equivalent assault that was not motivated by hatred.
Many persons, often conservatives, feel that the perpetrator
should be penalized only according to the injuries actually sustained by the victim.
Opposition to the bill:
The main opposition to the hate crimes bill came from fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian individuals and groups. They focused on:
The definition of "sexual orientation." The bill's sponsors seem to have assumed that everyone agreed that there are three orientations: bisexuality, heterosexuality and homosexuality. Thus, they did not include a definition of "sexual orientation" in the bill. Some conservative groups exploited a weakness in the bill: they promoted the belief that there are not three sexual orientations; there are over 30. They added about 30 paraphilias -- sexual obsessions, some of which are criminal acts, to the three sexual orientations. They included prostitution, pedophilia, having sex with dead corpses, having sex with animals, sexual involvement with trees, etc.
Fear of restrictions on religious freedom: Many conservative groups interpreted the bill as a prohibiting hate speech as well as violent hate crimes. They predicted that pastors would be arrested for conspiracy if one of their sermons directing hatred against lesbians, gays, bisexuals etc. resulted in a physical attack by a member of the congregation. An amendment to the bill was added to counteract this interpretation.
Over a year has passed and no hate speech charge has been laid under this law anywhere in the U.S. Such a charge could not be laid because of the freedom of speech provisions of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Status of the bill:
After a decade of struggle, an inclusive hate crimes bill was
finally passed by the federal House and Senate on 2009-OCT-22.
President Obama signed it into law on 2009-OCT-28.
It will help protect
every person in the U.S. from being the victim of a hate crime in eight
separate ways, on the basis of their:
Gender, whether female, male or intersexual,
Sexual orientation, whether they be bisexual, homosexual, or