A public policy issue that is fairly new is that of hate crimes. After Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die, and did, people began to understand the magnitude of these hate crimes and wanted to do something. I have found many web sites and legislation on the subject that support laws against hate crimes. Although most people think hate crimes are specifically against homosexuals, many other people are affected by them. Hate crimes are committed based on gender and race, ethnicity and religion as well as physical disability. Laws prohibiting hate crimes would be beneficiary for many people from many different backgrounds. After September 11, many hate crimes were committed against people of any kind of Arab background. Many people are at risk of becoming a victim of a hate crime, and there is legislation out there to try to prevent them from happening. Prevention is very
hard to accomplish, but at least we can hope that those who commit hate crimes will pay for what they do. Also, the public needs to become more concerned about the well-being of those attacked because of their sexual orientation instead of just those attacked based on race, religion, or other forms of discrimination.
“Hate-crime legislation increases a criminal’s sentence if it can be proven that the crime of which they were found guilty was motivated by hatred of the victim because of their race, religion, sex, or some other factor. Hate speech legislation criminalizes the denigration, ridicule, or expression of hatred against a person or group on the basis of the victim’s race, religion, etc.” (religioustolerance.org) The effects of hate crimes have been noticed and the government has put into effect laws against hate crimes. However, certain types of individuals are being left out. “Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have established some sort of mechanism to respond to and/or record information about hate crimes related to sexual orientation. Of these only the states of California, Minnesota, Vermont, and the District of Columbia also identify transgendered people as a protected group for purpose of hate crime laws.” (Meide, 2000) Therefore, over half the states, including North Carolina, do not have laws against hate crimes specific to sexual orientation. “Although the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act requires the United States Justice Department to collect and repot on information about hate violence related to sexual orientation, recording and reporting of information by all local police is not required.” (Meide, 2000) The government, especially local government and police, seem very lax about the issue of hate crimes because of sexual orientation. What these states are trying to do is put an end to hate crimes. However, the way the United States is right now, homosexuals and especially transgendered people do not have the rights that people who are victims of hate crimes for other reasons, such as race, have. Many people in this country oppose homosexuality and can turn their head when a hate crime is committed.
From what I have read, the public opinion on hate crimes appears to be in favor of laws against them. However, I do believe that laws against hate crimes based on sexual orientation are not as favored as laws for other forms of hate crimes. Most of the people who want to see these types of laws strongly enforced are homosexuals and transgendered people. Most people do not want to see that a gay man has been brutally murdered on the news. They want to believe that things of this nature do not take place in our society. They are also unwilling to do anything to help.
“It is important to note that both anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws do not only protect members of, for example, ethnic, religious, or sexual minorities. These laws protect all people from hatred and unfair treatment based upon, for example, a person’s race, religion, and sexual orientation.” (Meide, 2000) Several different types of people benefit from this public policy. Any type of hate crime or anti-discrimination is protected by the legislation. Those who cost from this public policy would be the ones who commit the crimes. Stronger punishments are being enforced for people who commit hate crimes. “Many people who are against this bill have said they oppose it because it makes thought a crime. It does not. This is about actions…motivated by hatred.” (religioustolerance.org) Tate said this about a defeated hate crime bill in Colorado. The main argument against hate crime laws is that the crimes being committed are of thought. That does not make any sense. These people are not thinking about brutally attacking someone. They are actually doing it. We have seen evidence of this several times. Actually, people who might be thinking about committing a hate crime might decide against it because of the punishment that would follow if caught.
“The opportunity to be threatened, humiliated, and to live in fear of being beaten to death is the only ‘special right’ our culture bestows on homosexuals.” (Carma) A public policy issue that is very important in our society is being actively supported by many homosexuals and transgendered people. However, there are dissenting opinions about every issue. Many people oppose and not very many states have tried hard to help the situation. When it comes to hate crimes based on sexual orientation, the public does not care very much. It will take a new perspective on the issue to help pass stricter laws and enforce them.
Carma, Diane. Denver Post. http://www.hatecrime.org/index.html
Meide, Wayne van der. Legislating Equality: A Review of Laws Affecting Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual, and Transgendered People in the United States. January 1, 2000.
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.