Anthony Fortunato case shows what hate crimes legislation is really about
Per yahoo news:
A man who tried to fend off gay-bashing charges by telling a jury that he is also gay was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime Thursday in an attack at a remote New York City beach.
It’s common for conservatives to claim that hate crimes legislation discriminates against white people or against heterosexuals or discriminates against people based on their thoughts. This case demonstrates exactly how wrong they are.Tony Perkins, for example, claims:
“All violent crimes are hate crimes, and every victim is equally important… All our citizens deserve equal justice under the law,” he said. “Congress should represent all Americans, not give special protections for some.”
This, of course, is a ploy. Hate crimes legislation does nothing to add additional penalties based on the victim’s race, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else.
They actually have to do with the nature of targeting specific groups. If you choose a victim because she’s heterosexual, it’s a hate crime. If you chose a victim because he’s white, it’s a hate crime. In fact, the FBI itself keeps records of hate crimes which include anti-white and anti-heterosexual hate crimes.
The Fortunato case, however, illustrates a further point: it’s not even necessarily about bias. Fortunato’s defense against being convicted of an anti-gay hate crime was the claim that he was gay himself. This defense failed for one simple reason: it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s gay. It matters that he chose his victim based on his victim’s sexual orientation.
I’ve no problem with people objecting to hate crimes legislation, but I’d like for them to object to what hate crimes legislation actually does: add extra punishment for violent crimes when the victim is chosen on the basis of their demographic group. Hate crimes legislation doesn’t criminalize hate. It doesn’t criminalize speech. It doesn’t criminalize anything. It merely adds additional sentencing to crimes that are already on the books.
There are perfectly valid reasons to object to hate crimes legislation. I just wish the right wing would actually use one of those reasons to object to them.