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No US Hate Crime Law, Decade After Matthew Shepard's Death

No US Hate Crime Law, Decade After Matthew Shepard's Death

Ten years ago today, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. Since then 31 states and Washington DC have passed increased punishments for crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Yet, there is still no federal hate crime law, and FBI stats show that the rate of anti-gay based crimes has remained the same.

The Matthew Shepard Act, which has never made it into law, would have given the federal government more authority to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and would have expanded victims specifically protected by federal law to include those who are attacked because of disability, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Should it be a federal offense to commit a crime against persons because of their sexuality, or is too hard to legally define a victim class based on how a criminal defines their sexuality?

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snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
Sushi- I mentioned that! :)
sushibananas sushibananas 8 years
Everyone is making good point and arguments - however -I think we've forgotten the original question: Should it be a federal offense to commit a crime against persons because of their sexuality, or is too hard to legally define a victim class based on how a criminal defines their sexuality? And as Liberty points out: 31 states and Washington DC have passed increased punishments for crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation. Yet, there is still no federal hate crime law, and FBI stats show that the rate of anti-gay based crimes has remained the same. Point being whether is should be a federal offense. This type of crime simply doesn't fall under the federal crimes umbrella. The responsibility falls on the state governments to prosecute these crimes. I do believe that all of our states should adopt special hate crime laws, though. It would be interesting to see the statistics between states which have these laws and those who do not, versus the FBI's stats. A thought.
Mykie7 Mykie7 8 years
I don't think a crime should be labeled a "hate" crime, because in essence, aren't ALL crimes hate crimes? You don't typically murder someone you love, or rape someone you love. There's an essence of hate within a person to do that. Prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law EQUALLY and their won't be a need for a hate crime bill.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
did anyone see Cartmans Silly Hate Crime 2000, season 4? best arguement ever against the hate crime law
geebers geebers 8 years
Hypno I am so sorry for your friend. How terrible.
HeatherStJoeMI HeatherStJoeMI 8 years
I agree with Jillness.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
It is my understanding that if you are convicting someone for murder, there are certain points that the prosecution has to prove like motive. I think "Hate Crime" fills in the question of motive, when prosecuting these cases.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I dont agree with the hate crime law, it further divides us as a society by defining some crimes against certain individuals as more hate filled than others. Not all violent crimes are done with intentional hate towards the victim, they are just crimes in and of themselves. It doesnt make sense to punish someone more harshly for the same crime based on who the victim is then different defendents treated unequally under the law, its unconstitutional.
kia kia 8 years
Oh man. Ten years. Such a senseless crime.
Brittfish Brittfish 8 years
When I first saw this question, I thought much like a lot of people here - prosecute the crime, not the motives behind it. But I started thinking about it. We have a number of laws in place that prevent people from acting on their hateful thoughts. You're allowed to be as bigoted as you want, but you're not allowed to discriminate against someone for their race, religion, etc in a number of ways. When thought turns to action, it becomes prosecutable. I don't like the idea of prosecutors, judges and juries trying to decide what was inside someone's head, but if the case is obvious, say the person kills someone for being gay and then spray paints "homo" on their corpse, I think a stronger sentence might be warranted.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
Thanks Pinky!
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 8 years
harmony, looove your avatar!! I completely agree! :)
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 8 years
I agree with most of you. killing someone for any reason should be harshly punished.
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
I am so sorry for your friend hypno. It's truly horrific that there are people like that in this world.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
My theory is that the motivation for such a law is awareness but IMO opinion if awareness is the intent there are better ways to do it than write redundant laws with different names. I'm not opposed making the existing laws stronger but again there is no need to write another law to do that.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
Only a few years after Mathew was murdered a very good acquaintance of mine also suffered the same fate. He was befriended by two individuals and when he invited them into his home they murdered him and left him. It wasn't until the odor told neighbors that something was seriously wrong three days later that he was found. The furniture in his apartment was tossed and he had been beat to death. His name was Timothy Gaines he was the comedian he made us laugh and to this day his joyous laugh sings in the memories of my mind. Although my heart aches for victims such as Tim and Mathew I can not get around the notion that premeditated violence is premeditated violence. The prosecution and punishment of such a crime should be equal across the board regardless of intent. One who attacks me because I am gay should be treated no differently than one who attacks me for any other reason. The violence is the actual crime.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
I agree with Jude C. We have laws against murder and assault, and our penalties are plenty stiff for these crimes (at least when the sentences are fully or mostly served!). It makes me positively sick to think that someone would kill another person based on his or her gender, disability or sexual orientation, but murdering anyone for any reason is a crime. Perhaps special consideration should be given to cases where the "hate" aspect has been proved; to bump up a second degree murder charge to first degree, the hate could be viewed as a form of intent, but I think that this should be done on a state-by-state basis. States are after all responsible for the police power, and courts have to follow the precedent and statutes of their own states. As far as inciting someone to commit a crime, this is also already illegal...not all speech is free!
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Today I visited my mother's house and her neighbor had a McCain/Palin sign in the yard. They'd marked the 'L' out of Palin and added a 'the' sign in between the names so it read "McCain the Pain". Underneath that they'd added their own sign that said "Bend over America". I found it extremely offensive. Even my mom (who is voting for Obama) found it incredibly offensive. If they were my neighbors, I might ask them to take it down, but I'd never want a law telling them they couldn't have it. I know it's not exactly hate speech, but I feel like it's a similar situation.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I'm with Mich on this one. A lot of people say stuff that others think is objectionable, sometimes in very public ways, but we can't control that as long as it isn't directly harming or inciting harm on someone else.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Foxy, I think they ought to be allowed to hang what they want outside their own home.
WithACherryOnTop WithACherryOnTop 8 years
*I was thinking
WithACherryOnTop WithACherryOnTop 8 years
True Jude. I was think of hanging a doll outside their own (the hater's) house. Would telling them to take it down be a violation of freedom of speech?
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
That is an interesting question, Foxy. Most of those kinds of situations count as vandalism, don't they? There's usually property damage involved. And some may count as threats of bodily harm, which are also illegal, aren't they? :ponder: As far as things like hanging a doll on someone's tree, well, it doesn't cause property damage, but I'd think it could be prosecuted as trespassing. When I was a kid, we had rocks thrown through our windows and stuff a lot (Asians living in a predominantly not-Asian town). As far as I know, my parents never chose to involve the police. They were pissed as all hell, but they figured it was kids playing stupid pranks and being punks.
WithACherryOnTop WithACherryOnTop 8 years
Do you agree with hate crime laws when no one is hurt? Like an outward show of hatred for a group of people? Such as hanging a doll on a tree outside their own house?
WithACherryOnTop WithACherryOnTop 8 years
Are you saying a society shapes laws vs. laws shaping a society? If that's case, I guess we could go round and round on that one... lol
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