This afternoon John Aravosis over at AMERICAblog directs our attention to this article over at the USAToday describing the ten year quest of Mathew's mother, Judy Shepard, to get a gay hate crimes bill passed by congress, often called the 'Mathew Shepard Act' this bill would add homosexuals to a list of federaly protected peoples and make the killing of homosexuals motivated by 'hate' a federal crime.
I think i might be the only homo in America that thinks this is a Bad Idea, let me count the ways...
1) Thought Crime: People should be punished for the crimes they commit, not the thoughts they are thinking while they commit the crime. Does it make any difference if you kill me because i'm gay, or i stand between you and a million dollars, or even if you just don't like my stupid ugly face? At the end of the day i'm dead. And my killer should be punished for murder. Period.
2) Federalism: The Constitution lists a number of crimes that require the attention of the Feds, 'treason, high crimes at sea, etc,' and murder of any stripe is simply not amongst them. I believe in the principle of the federal republic, that certain powers are reserved for the States, and others for the Federal Government. Investigation and prosecution of murder is a State's responsibility. And it's not as if the States have been remiss, 45 states have hate crimes laws on the books.
3) Limited Resources: The FBI only has so many agents, and we really need them to be investigating drug cartels and people that want to fly planes into tall buildings.
4) Making Martyrs out of Monsters: This is honestly the big one for me. To quote Dave Rittgers over at the Cato Institute,
A real true believer, a hardcore racist or homophobe, would want to be prosecuted under a statute that criminalizes his motives. Prosecution under a murder statute makes him a common criminal; prosecution for murdering someone given special status by the government makes him a martyr for his cause and incites those motivated by his brand of hatred and animus.
You don't defeat politically motivated violence by politicizing the laws used to prosecute it.
This is an emotional issue. I can't even conseive of the pain and loss Judy Shepard must be experiencing EVERY DAY since her only son was taken away from her. But laws are dangerous things, with unintended consequences. We should make new laws rarely and with passion or bias. If we set ourselves apart as some kind of specially protected super citizenry i worry that we won't be making ourselves safer, but rather we'll be painting targets on our chests.