Sunday, July 19, 2009

US Hate Crimes Deliberations

The lies, intellectual dishonesty and political philandering around the so-called "Matthew Shepard Act" in the United States continues apace. I haven't paid much attention to the bill itself - a lack of time mostly - my own life has been filled with its own priorities that have consumed my energies.

However, it's Sunday, and I have a few minutes to spare and I was just reading the semi-funny, outright ridiculous tripe posted on Lifesite about this legislation.

The first complaint is the cry of "no fair" from the Rethuglicans because the Democrat majority has attached it as an amendment or rider to a defense spending bill:

"Those of us who oppose this legislation - and it is important legislation - will be faced with a dilemma of choosing between a bill which can harm, in my view, the United States of America and its judicial system and a bill defending the nation," protested Sen. John McCain, who denounced Reid's tactic as an "abuse of power."

Now, in general principle, I actually agree with the Republican complaint here - I don't like the way that unrelated topics get tacked on to significant bills in the US legislative system. It has always struck me as a fundamentally dishonest way to get things done.

That said, during the Bush II era, it's not like the Rethuglicans didn't engage in precisely that tactic themselves - repeatedly. There were many times where more noxious legislation was tacked onto legislation that the house would have to pass or risk stalling the business of government entirely.

I won't say that I am sympathetic to the Republican plight here - the tactic in question has been in place for years, and seems to be one the ways that the US legislative process works. I may not like the tactic, but it's a fact of life.

Critics have warned that the bill has a chilling effect on religious free speech against homosexuality, pointing out that similar laws in other nations have facilitated the prosecution of Christians who speak against homosexuality, particularly in Canada and the United Kingdom. More importantly, they charge, "hate crimes" laws violate the guarantees of equal protection under the law by creating preferential classes for justice.

The number of outright falsehoods and bogus comparisons in this is beyond ridiculous.

First of all, The statement about "chilling" religious free speech is provably false. In Canada, there has not been a single religious speaker charged under Sections 318, 319 of Canada's Criminal code.

It is also important to recognize that civil rights in general exist in a state of tension with one another. I have discussed this concept many times before on this blog. It remains ridiculous to me that the argument continues to be made that there is some religious "freedom" to be exercised in "speaking out against homosexuality". Since when did religious freedom override the right of an entire subgroup in our population to live their lives in relative peace? The religious are free to "disagree" with homosexuality all they like - just as I am free to disagree with some particular religion all I like. In neither case is there a right to demand that the members of either be treated as lesser citizens.

"'Hate crimes' laws contradict the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and create unequal justice by elevating some groups of victims at the expense of others," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. Wright pointed out that under the proposed law, "Victims who engage in homosexual, transgender, or other sexual behavior get special treatment over victims who are military officers, police officers or veterans," such as the military recruiter who was slain in June by a Muslim convert at a shopping mall in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Hmmm...really? Let's consider a few factors here. First of all, Ms. Wright (ironically, probably the first time in ages that CWA has had a female spokesbot) is only partially correct. In many parts of the US, killing a police officer is an automatic ticket to Capital Murder charges. Period. Regardless of the circumstances. This has been the case for years. While I don't know if there are similar statutes regarding military personnel, that's irrelevant - there are already "tiers" of severity in the justice system.

Second, last I checked, there isn't an ongoing epidemic of people deciding to go "roll a cop" or "kill a queer" on a Saturday night. For GLBT folk, this is a common and well-placed fear. Killings like Matthew Shepard's, or for that matter Brandon Teena, are far too common; less dramatic crimes like beatings, vandalism and organized harassment are more frequent.

The use of hate crimes statutes is pretty rare. Only in the most egregious of cases is there enough evidence to suggest that there is a hate crime. Canada's Hate Crimes statutes have been on the books for several years, and have only been exercised a handful of times. In general, there are other, civil law remedies that are far more effective in dealing with the kinds of abusiveness that I will politely call "group slander".

There is also, in my mind, quite a difference between murder and murdering someone because of who they are. To return to CWA's bogus argument about a military recruiter's murder for a moment. The recruiter works for the military - that's what he does. It's his career. However, he can go do a different job if he wishes to. GLBT people are attacked for something that in general they are unlikely to be able to change. (and until someone shows me some actual credible long term follow up of "ex-gay" therapies, I will stick with that position)

However the Senate version of the "hate crimes" bill does not yet reconcile with the House version, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act, which alarmed conservative lawmakers as the bill fails to define or restrict the term "sexual orientation." One Democratic representative heaped praises on the bill for granting heightened federal protection for all 547 "paraphilias" or sexual aberrations documented by the American Psychological Association.

547 Paraphilias? Really? Wow - I'm going to have to go and review my copy of the DSM IV - because I only recall a handful of sexual paraphilias listed in there. In fact, the DSM IV TR specifically describes 8 specific categories of paraphilia, and one additional category to provide a diagnostic category for other, rarer paraphilic interests that may be encountered in the course of progress.

It does not describe 547 paraphilias per se. Additionally, the only paraphilia that would be covered under any hate crimes statute per se (and at that only indirectly) is formally labelled "Transvestic Fetishism", which may be coincident with some forms of GID. (As I understand it, many crossdressers engage in crossdressing for a combination of reasons, and few are absolutely fetishistic in nature)

In the context of hate crimes, it is important to recognize that the language of sexual paraphilias does not appear in them, nor does it seem to me that the language of the legislation I'm familiar with could be twisted to include most paraphilias - especially those that are known to be damaging or destructive to other, non-consenting parties.

Ironically, as this summary shows, getting the tar kicked out of you for your religious beliefs is already a protected category under existing US hate crimes legislation. (So much for CWA's "special category" lies - unless they are willing to admit that religion is very much a special category before the law already).

The ongoing squawking about including GLBT people in hate crimes legislation is nothing more than the religious right wingnuts demanding that the state protect the industry that they have spawned in their blind hatred of GLBT people. Whether one considers CWA, Americans for Truth Against Homosexuality, MassResistance or for that matter Focus on the Family, all of these organizations exist and depend on their ability to raise fear about GLBT people in the public in order to justify their existence.


Anonymous said...

If you'd like a sneak peek at what Gaydom wants to bring about on Main Streets around the world, visit Google and type in "Zombietime" and click on "Up Your Alley Fair" which is regularly held in public in view of little children! George Washington would be proud (sarcasm, sarcasm) of the country he helped to start - and would probably wonder why God hadn't leveled it!

MgS said...

Anonymous @ 4:08

Several points:

(1) Not one of the pictures showed any presence of minors.

(2) Thirty seconds with Google can turn up more examples of the same activities involving heterosexual people than that - in public. Get over yourself.

(3) To assume that one subgroup of the gay male community (apparently the leather fetishists from the Folsom Street Fair website) represents the breadth and depth of GLBT people is like assuming that all religions involve human sacrifice because Mayan religion did.

(4) In no respect have you addressed why it should be legal to commit hate crimes against GLBT people.