- - Thursday, March 16, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Three men were indicted this month in Washington for the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old transgendered woman, the robbing of a second transgendered woman and the assault on a third. A “hate crime” charge was added to the charges of conspiracy, robbery and first-degree murder, which could mean that the defendants, if convicted, could serve sentences half again as long as for “mere” murder.

This raises an important constitutional issue that has been ignored with respect to the feel-good concept of hate-crime laws. Are some Americans more equal than others?

Common sense, though much maligned in an era when identity politics is the rule, teaches that all murders are hate crimes. Someone who takes a life with a gun or a knife is rarely, if ever, doing it from a heart of love, affection or respect. If the suspects are convicted, each could receive a sentence of 90 years in prison, effectively a life sentence, instead of 60 years.

If convicted after a full and fair trial, a life sentence is no more than such bad guys deserve, and maybe then some, but the concept of a “hate crime” does considerable damage to the Constitution and the efficacy of the law. Hate-crime laws make some victims, like the barnyard pigs in George Orwell’s cautionary tale, “Animal Farm,” more equal than others.

Hate-crime laws enshrine the concept that some lives are worth more than other lives and thus more deserving of protection. This was the unspoken premise of the law in some places in decades past, and it is the misbegotten premise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Democratic politicians, like Bernie Sanders, who have the temerity to express the valid notion than all lives matter, are quickly taken to the woodshed and forced, under considerable pressure and humiliation, to recant.

Hate-crime laws, set in both state and federal codes in 45 states and the District of Columbia, give preferential protection to entire groups of Americans. With some variation among the states, they typically protect victims of minority races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender (meaning sex), identity and religion.

Straight white victims need not ask for similar enhanced sentencing considerations because they will rarely get it. Hate-crime legislation was conceived as a pander, and it encourages racial and sexual discrimination everywhere it is applied.

Angela Rockey of New Albany, Ind., was attacked outside Mac’s Hideaway, a bar, at 2 o’clock in the morning earlier this month. By one television news account, a group “consist[ing] of nearly a dozen black men and women” forced her to the sidewalk and continued to beat her, accompanied by racial slurs. “This girl turned around and punched me in my mouth and instantly broke my teeth,” Ms. Rockey says. “They just kept saying that over and over. ‘Stay down, you white bitch.’”

This is the kind of incident that sets off hysteria in many newsrooms, when the victim is other than white, followed by denunciations by assorted public officials, politicians and pundits. But Ms. Rockey is of the white persuasion, and this incident in Indiana was mostly ignored. It might have been hateful behavior, but it was not deemed a hate crime under the law.

Nor should it have been. No crime, whether black or white, against or inflicted by black or white, should be so regarded. If certain crimes should be more severely punished, such as a particularly brutal beating, the law could be amended to reflect that. But it should not be a colored by race. All are meant to be equal under the law, and the law should reflect that. Hate crimes, so called, are about politics, and the law is not about politics.

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