Hans Klasson, June 20, 2009
Even though hate crimes are rarely debated, the hate speech theory is controversial, as criminalizing communication can be seen as impugning freedom of speech. Hate crimes are calculated to cause fear among an entire group of people. Hate crimes send a message that an individual and “their kind” will not be tolerated. Many times leaving the victim and others in their group feeling secluded, vulnerable and exposed.
Hate crimes are exceptional because they have a unique emotional and physical impact that extends past the actual victim. They intimidate others in the victim’s community, causing them to feel isolated, defenseless, and unprotected by the law. These crimes are committed against individuals, or a few individuals. They are intended to incite fear and self-loathing amid a broader group of people. The targeted groups of people can include LGBT people, people of different races, religious backgrounds, or abilities.
Most anti-gay hate crimes are committed by otherwise law-abiding people who see nothing wrong with their actions, and who sometimes believe that they have societal consent to engage in such violence.
Notable anti-gay hate crime headlines in the media:
Lawrence King, a self-identified gay male, 15-years old, was shot twice in the head by a bully while in English class after enduring countless acts of homophobia.
Eric Mohat, 17-years old, went home and shot himself in the head after a bully suggested, ‘Why don’t you go home and shoot yourself’ His two assailants were not charged with a hate crime, since the state had no hate crime law. They were, however convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The sadistic torture and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in October 1998. Two petty criminals kidnapped Shepard, beat him ferociously,tied him to a fence in frigid temperatures, and left him there for 18 hours before he was discovered. The case sparked a national debate about the need for hate crime legislation.
Alabama, computer programmer Billy Jack Gaither, 39, was brutally beaten with an axe handle. His throat was cut, and his body was set on fire. One of his convicted killers, Steven Mullins, testified he killed Gaither because he was “queer”
Brandon Teena, whose birth name was Teena Brandon, from Lincoln, Nebraska moved to Humboldt in 1993, after beginning to live as a man in preparation for sex-change surgery. Brandon passed as a man, but was discovered to be biologically and legally female by local police during an arrest on a misdemeanor charge. Brandon lived in a small Midwestern town, where his sexual identity crisis was not tolerated, inciting two presumed friends to brutally murder him and two other innocents. This true story, which was the basis for the feature film ‘Boys Don’t Cry’
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