Article excerpt

Hate the Crime

Brought to my attention recently was Daniel E. Troy's piece from your November issue ("The GOP's Hearing Loss"), which contains in its premise a wildly erroneous assertion of fact.

In reflecting on his experience testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on the subject of hate crime legislation, Mr. Troy writes that "[bly unhappy coincidence, about two weeks before the hearing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch introduced a measure to broaden the scope of hate crime laws from cases involving racial, religious, or ethnic violence to those involving gender, sexual orientation, or disability. His bill would also extend federal jurisdiction to 'hate crimes' that occur at any time, and not only during the six currently federally protected activities such as voting ...."

This distortion accuses me of sponsoring the very legislation I have fought. Mr. Troy's description instead fits the hate crime bill authored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, which I have publicly denounced as a "radical" measure that would stray from the first principles of federalism that for more than two centuries have vested states with primary responsibility for prosecuting crimes committed within their boundaries. Indeed, in a letter to my colleagues in the Republican leadership this fall, I depicted that approach as one that "would drastically expand federal jurisdiction over hate crimes-and thereby eviscerate the leadership exercised by state and local authorities in these matters-by eliminating the requirement that the victim be involved in a federally-protected activity, and also by adding new categories of bias to the current definition of hate crimes."

To be sure, I also reject the position that the federal government ought not assume any further role in combating hate crime. The superficial mantra that "all crimes are hate crimes" furnishes no justification for those unwilling to support a meaningful federal response to hate crime activity. Rather, I believe there are certain acts of violence properly denominated as "hate crimes," and that such crime can be more sinister than non-hate crime. A crime committed not just to harm an individual, but out of the motive of sending a message of hatred to an entire community-oftentimes a community defined on the basis of immutable traits-- is appropriately punished more harshly, or in a different manner, than other crimes.

Accordingly, between the bookends of a proposal to drastically expand federal jurisdiction at the expense of state and local officials, and no response to hate crime activity, I have authored a reasonable proposal that would respond to hate crime activity in an effective and principled fashion. This approach would create a meaningful partnership between the federal government and the states in combating hate crime, by establishing within the Justice Department a fund to assist state and local authorities in investigating and prosecuting hate crime. But, this legislation most assuredly would not do those things that Mr. Troy properly criticizes.

I appreciate your publishing this correction for the benefit of your readers.


Chairman, Judiciary Committee

United States Senate

Washington, D.C.

Daniel E. Troy replies:

Indeed, Senator Hatch-whom I like, admire, and have supported-did not introduce the legislation I described. I became confused because the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Senator Hatch chairs, did hold a hearing on Senator Kennedy's bill. That same measure later became the subject of Chairman Hyde's hearing, prompting excitement among supporters of the legislation because hearings had now been held on the measure in both houses of Congress - generally considered a prerequisite to passage.

Senator Hatch's measure, introduced a few weeks before the House hearing I described, certainly would not go as far as Senator Kennedy's, although, in addition to the features described in Senator Hatch's letter, it would create a new federal offense prohibiting anyone who crosses state lines "by force or threat of force, to willfully injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person because of the person's race, color, religion, or national origin. …