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Equal, But….

Posted by Chad on January 5, 2006

My recent post about what’s going on at Riker’s got my brain to thinking about something that I have yet to post about on here… that being the issue of “hate crimes”.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from high school who is gay was beaten as he was leaving his job at a gay bar in Manhattan. I didn’t even know he had moved here (we had fallen out of touch after I graduated) and had to do some research after reading his name in the paper to make sure it was him. Needless to say, it shocked and angered the hell out of me.

Upon reading that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime, I felt a little better. And that surprised me a bit, as I have never been a fan of Clinton’s look-how-much-I-love-gays legislation. However, being that this happened to someone I knew, someone I hung out with, I guess it wasn’t all that shocking that my opinions had changed.

But had they?

What sets a hate crime apart from your average “I dislike you immensely” crime is the intent behind it. (Ethnicity, religious background, or in this case, sexual orientation.) In that respect, I have no problem with the legislation, except for the fact that most major felonies are committed with some level of “hate” behind them. (I have yet to hear of a man confessing to killing his wife’s lover because he “just adored the shit out of the guy.”)

My problem with this legislation surfaces because, generally speaking, those convicted of hate crimes serve harsher sentences. This I disagree with wholeheartedly. Emotion aside, I feel that the two guys who attacked my friend should serve no more or no less a sentence than had they beaten a straight guy.

The obvious reason being is that when we start punishing people more severely for their intent of their crime, we are inherently assigning a greater value to their victims. You assault a white guy on his way home from work, you’re gettin’ the book thrown at you. You assault a white gay guy on his way home from work, you’re gettin’ five.

Not only do laws like this further alienate the groups they are meant to protect, but they are in direct opposition to the fight for equality we in the gay community are all after. We have learned from the past that there are no varying degrees of equality; it only has one definition. The civil rights movement showed us that the idea of “separate but equal” is anything but.

And yet now we seem to be pushing the idea of “equal… but special.”

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