- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2009

Democrats are making it illegal to think certain things. The House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday that extends federal so-called hate-crimes laws to include sexual orientation. This is a move to provide special status for specific groups. It is also unnecessary. If a miscreant kills or rapes somebody, he should be prosecuted for murder or rape. What he might have been thinking is beside the point.

Hate-crimes legislation obscures the fact that the underlying crime is already prosecutable under existing laws. The bill is named after Matthew Shepard, a homosexual who was beaten to death near Laramie, Wyo., in 1998. The case caught national attention, which accelerated the push to establish new hate crimes - but it serves as a fitting example for why new legislation is unnecessary. Mr. Shepard’s attackers were successfully prosecuted without homosexuals being established as a special protected class by the federal government.

Current federal hate-crimes law already covers the use or threat of force based on race, color, religion or national origin. Proponents of adding “gender identity” falsely argue that it is needed because these crimes have become more prevalent in recent years. According to FBI data, reported attacks have remained constant - between 7,000 and 9,000 a year nationwide - since 1992.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, told an editorial board meeting at The Washington Times that the hate-crimes bill makes him “want to throw up,” and noted that it doesn’t make sense to prosecute “what we think [criminals] were thinking as opposed to what they did.”

Mr. Boehner’s point is right on the mark. But the motivation isn’t about punishing crime as much as it is about controlling certain thoughts and views. Once homosexuals become a special class protected by hate-crime legislation, the back door is open to prosecuting those who speak out against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Yesterday’s House vote was really about creating thought crimes to further the liberal agenda.