On October 28, Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Boyd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act. On one level, this seems like a great idea: a new law that deals specifically with hate crimes. However, there is always a different side to the coin. In looking into the subject, I’ve found absolute praise for the passing of the law and I’ve found disappointment in it.
On the side of praise, you have people talking about how wonderful it is to live a little safer and not have to worry as much about hate crimes. The law extends hate crimes to include violent actions against victims based on religion, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity. Any hate crimes committed against people for any of these reasons are now treated differently from other crimes that are not driven by hate.
This is where the other side comes in, making a compelling point. This side asks: shouldn’t the law extend equally to everyone? If a person is murdered, should the culprit be treated differently based on the reasoning behind the crime? Those opposed to the law believe that it gets a little too specific. If a person murders someone else, that person should be punished for that crime. That punishment should not be affected by the absence or presence of bigotry.
So both sides have interesting points. On the one hand, you have people asking for protections from heinous crimes. On the other hand, you have people saying that those protections already exist and would like to see them strengthened before new laws are put in place.
I’m interested to see what others think about this law. I can certainly see where these two sides are coming from, but what do you think is the best course of action for keeping hate crimes at bay?