Congress is expected to expand federal hate crimes laws to add "sexual orientation" to a list that already includes "race, color, religion or national origin." Is this necessary? Should there be special laws against crimes motivated by intolerance, bigotry and hatred? Isn't a crime a crime?
Hate crimes are particularly horrific because they say not, “I hurt you because you hurt me,” but “I hurt you because you are.” And also, frequently, “because I can.” Hate crimes are so common in our culture that we have multiple names for it. One of them is bullying. Virtually every school district in the United States has an anti-bullying campaign to teach our children to recognize intimidation, take it to the authorities and let the authorities work out the consequences. Hate crimes legislation is no more than a Federal Anti-Bullying Campaign. Where a citizen is victimized for being who he is and is afraid to stand up for himself, the government says, “If he threatens you again, you come and get me and I’ll deal with it.” But what any school child will tell you, whether he is the victim, witness or bully, is that the ani-bullying campaign is only as strong as the punishment it delivers. If the principle wags his finger at the bully and says, “Now don’t kick sand in Dexter’s eyes anymore, Spike,” the bully will go right out and fearlessly victimize the little guy again. In a culture where we have to teach our children to do what is right and where an adult sized potion of courage is required to do it, the least we can do is promise that the legislation that protects them has teeth. It doesn’t matter who the little guy is, the big guy can’t push him around on our block.