Monday, November 9, 2009

Obama Signs Hate Crimes Act: Anti-gays Hyperventilate, Crimes Against Ladies Ignored

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that expands federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a person's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The previous law permitted prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or national origin. Effectively, this meant that Fred Phelps, his church of God Hates Fags, and every other anti-gay Persecuted Christian in the US was protected under federal hate crimes laws whilst the targets of their animus, LGBT people, were not.

Among other specifics, the new law also requires the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people. Prior to this law, the FBI tracked only statistics of hate crimes committed based on a persons's race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability.

You may remember this legislation as anti-gays notoriously warned that expanding hate crimes laws to include "sexual orientation" would protect pedophiles and other sexual deviants. Their various fear-mongering claims were ridiculous, of course. However, Ed Brayton, who is "no big fan" of the new law (for other reasons), has made a wager with Matt Barber, who has breathlessly reported that Christians are now on "high alert" because of the law. Writes Ed:

"I am willing to bet that not a single minister will be convicted in this country under the hate crimes legislation for preaching against homosexuality. And since we can't have such bet be open-ended, here are my proposed terms. We start with $100 for the first year. At the end of the first year, if someone has been convicted of such a 'crime' I'll pay up. If not, you can either up or go double or nothing on the second year.

Every year that goes by without such a conviction, the amount of the bet doubles. You can bail out at any time, admit that you were wrong and pay the accumulated money owed. And if, at any time, someone is convicted merely of speaking out against homosexuality in this country, I pay up whatever amount of money is currently on the line based on the above formula. At the end of ten years, the loser pays up and the bet is concluded."

The fun part about pro-LGBT laws going into effect is that we can measure what actually happens against what the anti-gay crowd said would happen. I suspect they are going to end up looking as foolish as all of those many other historical purveyors of Great Harm myths.

In addition, while I have my doubts about the effectiveness of hate crimes laws in actually preventing hate crimes, I think it is important that gender is included. We, meaning feminists, have been saying for many many years, and in various different ways, that we live in a culture that encourages violence against women as women. Or, as Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, "We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected." Violence and aggression against women motivated by the fact that they are women is so ubiquitous as to be unremarkable. It would be revolutionary, yet appropriate, to frame many acts of violence against women as hate crimes.

Unfortunately, as the Reclusive Leftist has aptly noted, the mainstream media, LGBT groups, and anti-gay groups are almost completely overlooking the inclusion of gender in this hate crimes expansion.

I wonder, what is the intent of the US Department of Justice with respect to prosecuting gender-based hate crimes?

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