Hate Crimes Legislation: Much-Needed Reform or a Totalitarian Measure?
How many times will we see the same misinformation cast forth in diatribes regarding the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999? Tony Snow's "Mandate for vengeance?" (Commentary, April 9) misses the mark on several fronts.
The sentencing enhancement aspect of hate crimes legislation already exists and is not part of the legislation now being considered.
The legislation presently under scrutiny would amend existing hate crimes laws in two ways. First, it would provide new authority for federal officials to investigate and prosecute cases in which the hate motivated violence occurs because of the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation, gender or disability. Second, it would remove the current restrictive language requiring proof that the victim was attacked because he or she was engaged in a federally protected activity, such as going to school or to vote. No one wants a law that says it is worse to "beat a gay man than to beat a straight one." The suggested amendment aims to provide legislation that serves all Americans equally.
The "criminalization of thought" argument is one that continues to fall from the lips of hate crimes legislation opponents. The truth is that unless your thoughts are accompanied by violent action, you need not fear prosecution. In America, you can think whatever you want to think.
Mr. Snow's claim that we're not in the midst of a wave of bigotry is refuted by recent news. …