Rights and Values in Missouri Opponents of Bias-Crimes Legislation Misrepresent What It Means

By Arlene Zarembka Copyright 1994 Arlene Zarembka | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 1, 1994 | Go to article overview

Rights and Values in Missouri Opponents of Bias-Crimes Legislation Misrepresent What It Means


Arlene Zarembka Copyright 1994 Arlene Zarembka, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Missouri's Amendment Coalition is waging war on minorities. In its efforts to repeal civil rights protections, it is using bogus "special rights" and "minority status" lingo to misrepresent civil rights and bias-crimes laws.

Its most recent success was the 16,385-to-6,757 vote in Springfield, Mo., in early February to repeal that city's bias-crime ordinance. The ordinance was enacted by a 7-to-2 vote of the City Council in October after a mayor's task force found that a significant number of bias-motivated crimes were occurring in Springfield. The law made it a crime to assault others or to damage property because of hostility due to the race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation of the victim.

Even the relatively conservative Missouri Supreme Court wrote recently in a decision upholding Missouri's ethnic-intimidation law that bias-motivated hate crimes "inflict substantial emotional harm on the victim and society as a whole."

The bias crimes reverse in Springfield comes on the heels of a Festus City Council vote in January to delete sexual orientation from the protections of its civil rights law. The Amendment Coalition spearheaded that effort as well.

To gain support for its attack on civil rights, the Amendment Coalition is circulating a video that declares there is something in the law called "protected minority class status" (what the Amendment Coalition also simply calls "minority status"). It claims that civil rights laws give racial and ethnic minorities some sort of "special rights and privileges," "advantages" and "elevated status."

"Minority status" and "special rights" are phrases concocted by the extreme right to inflame passions so as to undermine support for necessary and important civil rights protections. There simply is no legal meaning to either of these phrases. Civil rights and bias-crimes laws provide remedies for various types of discrimination and violence, and do not limit their coverage to members of minority groups. Civil rights laws protect everyone from certain types of discrimination. Likewise, bias-crimes laws protect everyone from hate violence that is motivated by certain types of prejudice.

People of any color or race, including whites, may file claims of discrimination or bias violence if they have suffered discrimination or violence because of color or race. Indeed, the hate crimes case that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the validity of such laws involved a racially motivated assault on a white youth by a group of black youths.

Similarly, both men and women may file claims of sex discrimination. Men used sex discrimination laws to win the right to be flight attendants for Pan American airlines in 1971. Likewise, people of any religion, or no religion at all, may file claims of religious discrimination.

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Rights and Values in Missouri Opponents of Bias-Crimes Legislation Misrepresent What It Means
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