23 April 2009

Fight Hate Now

Angie Zapata
On July 16, 2008, in Greeley, Colorado, Angie Zapata, 20, was fatally beaten after her date discovered she was transgender. Her body was discovered on July 17th, by her sister.

Jose and Romel Sucuzhanay
The two brothers from Ecuador had attended a church party and had stopped at a bar afterwards. While walking home arm-in-arm, a car pulled up and three men came out of the car shouting anti-gay and anti-Latino epithets at the brothers.

Lawrence King
Lawrence King, a 15 year old junior high student, was shot and killed on school grounds on Tuesday, February 12, 2008. King, who self-identified as gay, had recently been harassed at school by students for having painted nails and wearing feminine accessories.

Ryan Skipper
Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, was brutally stabbed to death in Eloise, Florida. The suspected killers, 20 year old David Brown and 21 year old Joseph Bearden, are in custody and the investigation is proceeding as a hate crime.

Sean Kennedy
Sean William Kennedy was punched in the face by Stephen A. Moller as he used anti-gay slurs. The blows caused Kennedy to fall and strike his head on the pavement and he died later in the hospital.

Duanna Johnson
Duanna Johnson was arrested on charges of prostitution and was sitting in a chair in a holding area at the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar Avenue when an officer walked up and punched her several times.

David Ritcheson
David Ritcheson was viciously attacked by two individuals because of his heritage as a Mexican-American. Ritcheson was sucker punched and knocked out, and dragged into the back yard for an attack that would last for over an hour.

The U.S. Department of Justice—Federal Bureau of Investigation released a Hate Crimes Statistics Report in October 2007. It noted the following:

An analysis of data for victims of single-bias hate crime incidents showed that
• 52.0 percent of the victims were targeted because of the offender’s bias against a race.
• 17.1 percent were victimized because of a bias against a religious belief.
• 15.9 percent were targeted because of a bias against a particular sexual orientation.
• 14.1 percent were victimized because of a bias against an ethnicity/national origin.
• 0.9 percent were targeted because of a bias against a disability.

Of those bias, or hate, motivated crimes, the only group of victims not protected by Federal hate crime laws are those victims who were targeted based solely on their percieved sexual orientation.

On that note...here is the response I received when I sent an email to Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) urging him to support H.R. 1913:

"Dear Ms. Wright:

Thank you for contacting me regarding your thoughts on hate crime legislation. I appreciate hearing your concerns on this matter.

There is little evidence that indicates that violent crimes motivated by "hate" go unpunished in the United States. Most states already have criminal laws that prohibit the anti-social behavior addressed by hate crime legislation - including laws against murder, rape, arson, assault, and battery.

I oppose the creation of Federal hate crime legislation for a variety of reasons. First, I do not believe the Federal government should interfere with the criminal laws already on the books in our states. Second, many hate crime bills attempt to establish a "protected class" of crime victims who would receive special protection under the law. And finally, we already have laws to prosecute individuals who commit violent crimes. Those people guilty of violent crimes against anyone should be prosecuted under existing law."

Senator Chambliss is missing the point.

Bias crimes committed against one person tend to have the effect of terrorizing an entire group of people, whether they are motivated by race, color, religion, sexual orientation or any other class. There are already federal protections for race, color, religion, national origin. These federal protections enhance the penalties for violent acts committed as a result of bias.

H.R. 1913 (or The Matthew Shepard Act, as it is commonly known, named for the gay Wyoming college student who was severly beaten, tied to a fence and left to die by his attackers) would strengthenalready existing federal hate crime laws in three ways:

1) Expand the law to authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Current law only includes race, color, religion or national origin.
2) Eliminate a serious limitation on federal involvment under existing law which requires that a victim of a bias-motivated crime was attacked because he/she was engaged in a specified federally-protected activity such as voting, serving on a jury or attending school.
3) Add "gender" and "gender identity" to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act

1 comment:

Mark E. Zamen said...

Very compelling points are raised here. In fact, my just-released biographical novel, Broken Saint, is about this whole issue of prejudice. The story is based on my nearly forty-year friendship with a gay man and the internal and external struggles he endured -exascerbated by his bipolarism. You may find it worth a look, It is available at www.eloquentbooks.com/BrokenSaint.html, www.amazon.com, and elsewhere.


Mark Zamen, author