I expect most people will see that title and scroll on past, possibly unfollowing me in the process. That’s okay. For those of you that do read this, I hope you consider my thought processes and point of view and then engage in some respectful discussion if you disagree. (I would love to understand your point of view, if you can explain it with respect. Love.) Content note for this post: discussion of hate crimes, so expect violence (including lethal and sexual) and discussion of various identities.
Imagine this: there are two court cases. In both instances, the victim was beaten personally by the perpetrator. The beatings are exactly equal in severity, the victims are recovering exactly the same, and the perpetrators have been caught and are on trial. The perpetrators are both adults of sound mind according to the law, so there is no need to consider an “insanity” defense [rant for another day] or a difference in sentencing due to juvenile status. Neither was provoked in any way by the victim and neither was planned ahead to any degree greater or lesser than the other. Why, then, do these two perpetrators of exactly equal crimes receive very different sentences upon a guilty finding?
They are sentenced differently because one of the perpetrators was thinking about how much they can’t stand rich people spending their money in public without shame and the other was thinking about how much they can’t stand gay people showing their love in public without shame. Or one couldn’t handle the fact that their spouse was cheating with the victim, while the other couldn’t handle the fact that the victim was a racial minority. They were sentenced differently because of their personal thoughts or beliefs. That’s what hate crime legislation is to me: thought policing. I don’t want to live in 1984; I want us to read that book and learn something from it.
If you murder someone, you’ve murdered them. I can understand exceptions for manslaughter (if it’s an accident, it’s a little bit different) and self-defense, but if you set out to kill someone and succeed, I don’t care what your reason was. That person is dead because of you. The reason shouldn’t matter, only the action and its results. I’d like to see equal sentencing. You know why? Because I want to seen as EQUAL. I don’t want my death to mean more than one of my siblings’ deaths just because I’m queer and neither of them are.
It was mentioned to me once that hate crime legislation is useful for rape cases, because people of certain minorities can be more easily aware of their increased risk should a convicted rapist later live in their area. I know that there are databases where you can find out if a convicted rapist lives nearby. I don’t know if there are any details about their cases in those databases, but I could see an argument for including generalities (such as “tendencies towards females appearing black” or “tendencies towards assumed or confirmed lesbian people”) to allow for greater safety for those potentially-targeted populations. But from what I know, hate crime legislation doesn’t cover “tendencies towards women with blue eyes”, which I think might be useful information in such a database. Therefore, I submit that hate crime legislation is not, in fact, useful in rape cases for protection of potential future victims.
If we moved from a punitive to a rehabilitative model for dealing with crime, I could see a much revised hate crimes policy being useful – did you attack someone because they’re gay? Get to know some gay people and learn that they’re people first, probably any number of things second (dog lover? parent? crossword puzzle enthusiast?) before you get to where “gay” ranks, to them, to who they are as a person. Understanding leads to acceptance leads to friendship, and that’s how we should approach the situation.
Crimes are crimes. Murder is murder. I agree with sentencing people in accordance to the crime they committed; I do not agree with sentencing people in accordance to the thoughts they were thinking while committing the crime. More importantly, how can we honestly say all we want is to be equal to everyone else when we’re asking for additional protections under the law? That’s not equality. That’s requesting the special treatment so many minorities deny requesting. Equality is everyone treated equally under the law. Equality is not allowing “trans panic” to be a valid defense, but equality is also not allowing “but I’m gay” to get your attacker a greater sentence.