THE BLOG
09/27/2013 06:41 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Haters of Hate Crime Laws

What's up with people who oppose hate crime laws? How can you be against laws that protect people from being targeted because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity?

Well, here's how. Some people oppose hate crime laws because they say the laws are unnecessary and redundant. They say that we already have laws against assault and murder, so we don't need laws against assault and murder motivated by hate. They say that, but they're wrong. The purpose of laws is to deter and punish antisocial behavior, behavior that violates the rights of citizens. Hate crime laws impose additional penalties for crimes motivated by hate, and therein lies the deterrence. I would venture to say that most haters who assault or murder people out of hatred for the group they belong to would not commit the crimes of assault or murder to steal a wallet. They're not muggers or thieves intent on stealing something of monetary value from another human being. They don't care about your wallet. They want to beat the crap out of you or kill you because you're black or Islamic or gay or transgender. They don't know you, but they don't like the group you belong to, so they want to harm you or even kill you. Their violent crime is not a means to an end -- getting your wallet -- but an end in and of itself -- namely, getting you. If they are deterred from acting out their hatred, they are unlikely ever to engage in a violent criminal act at all.

Some people who say hate crime laws are unnecessary or redundant actually go so far as to deny that there even is such a thing as a hate crime. Missouri State Rep. Paul Curtman, a Republican, is one of these people. Earlier this year he said, "There is not really such a thing as a hate crime. Crime is crime, right? Equality under the law." People like Mr. Curtman deny the undeniable. They deny reality. But here is the reality. Here's the truth. Tying James Byrd Jr. to the back of a pickup truck and dragging him for three miles because he was black: That was a hate crime. Tying Matthew Shepard to a post and then torturing him and murdering him because he was gay: That was a hate crime too. It's also a hate crime to murder another human being because they were born male but are presenting as a woman. That's what a mob did to Dwayne Jones, a gay Jamaican teenager who attended a party dressed as a woman. When it was discovered that Dwayne was born male, a mob descended upon him, beat him, stabbed him, shot him and ran over him with a car.

Those are just a few examples of hate crimes. Would they change the mind of Mr. Curtman or people like him who say that hate crimes don't exist? I doubt it. Haters of hate crime laws are pretty hard to reach. Consider the fact that some people who oppose hate crime laws actually say that they do so in defense of freedom. Right. They say that hate crime laws threaten freedom of speech and religion. They say that, but they're wrong. You have a perfect right under the Constitution of the United States to hate all you want. In fact, you can hate anybody you want, and you can hate them all day long. You just can't act on your hate. You can't threaten them, harass them, stalk them, beat them up or kill them because you hate them. You can also believe that certain people are sinful and deserve to go to hell because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's your right. And God bless you for it. Yes, you can believe that gay and transgender people are perverts and sinners, and you can take private delight in the belief that they will be punished for eternity. You just can't threaten, harass, stalk, beat up or kill them because you think they're perverts and sinners who are going to hell. Sorry. It must be very frustrating. But that is the behavior that hate crime laws are designed to deter and punish.

Lately a lot of the opposition to hate crime laws is directed at the fact that these laws protect people from being victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The people who oppose these laws don't want gay or transgender people to be protected as a minority. They say they don't deserve the protection. They say they're not a real minority like blacks or Hispanics. No, they are simply perverts and sinners who engage in behavior that all moral, God-fearing people should hate and condemn. Of course, being homosexual is not a behavior any more than being heterosexual is, and being transgender is not a behavior any more than being a cisgender man or woman is. But so much, once again, for the incontrovertible facts.

As an example of what I'm talking about, check out Dr. Robert Gagnon's "25 Reasons to Oppose Hate Crime Legislation." Dr. Robert Gagnon is an associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He believes that it is immoral to engage in homosexual sex. He bases this belief on the Bible. As I noted, hate crime laws protect people from being victimized based on their belonging to a number of different groups, but the only groups that Dr. Gagnon focuses on in his "25 Reasons to Oppose Hate Crime Legislation" are homosexuals and transgender people. That's right. All 25 reasons have to do with what Dr. Gagnon considers to be bad things that will happen if homosexual and transgender people are protected by hate crime laws.

There are a whole lot of reasons that people give for opposing hate crime laws, but for many of these people, the real reason goes much deeper. It's usually pretty hard to get to real reasons, ultimate reasons, but in this case it's not. In this case it's clear. Unfortunately the real reason that some people oppose hate crime laws is that they themselves are part of the hate.