March 17, 2012

Hate crimes legislation

This whole Dahrun Ravi/Tyler Clementi thing bothered me from the start. I will be irritated if Ravi gets much time for this. He was just being a stupid teenager, like zillions of other stupid teenagers. He didn't kill Tyler Clementi. Tyler (and society) did.

Today, I was surprised and pleased to find a story in the Times (attributed to AP) that deals with the issue in a nuanced, rational way. Go read it. It's surprisingly adult.

I don't think hate crime laws are sensible. The onus should be on the authorities, not the perpetrators. For instance, murder is murder and it's already against the law. (I'm speaking generally now; the Ravi/Clementi case didn't involve murder.) So since murder is already illegal, we don't need additional laws when a gay man is murdered. What we do need is legislation that penalizes the authorities when they fail to investigate a murder based on sexual orientation -- because it's a murder based on sexual orientation.

Isn't that where the problem lies? We live in a country where it was once commonplace for police to ignore crimes committed against GLBT people. And this still goes on today. That is the issue. Focusing on the perpetrators accomplishes nothing, as far as I can see. There are already penalties for murder and I don't think those penalties should be increased when hate plays a role in the crime. Life is life and all lives should be valued equally.

Gay people need respect. We need to be treated like others. And we need a police force that pays the same attention to crimes committed against us as they do to crimes against heterosexuals.

You also have to think of the consequences once you go down this road. These laws are the first step on a path that leads inevitably to anti-blasphemy laws. Think about it. We do not want to encourage this sort of thing. A crime is a crime. Let's not paint some crimes in special, lurid colors.

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