Do "Hate" Crime Laws Violate 14th Amendment?

There has been a rash of "hate" crimes allegedly committed against gays in New York State recently. "Hate" crime laws have proliferated in the United States in recent years, and their creation/expansion on both the federal and state levels should cause all to pause and consider the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such laws.

What are hate crime laws? They are laws that increase the level of an offense charged, as well as the punishment for the offense, when the person committing the crime targets the victim because of the victim's race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or certain other traits.

For example, let's say you and a friend go out to dinner, and after dinner, on your way to your car, you and your friend are assaulted. You both receive minor injuries, and the attackers are promptly caught by police. When questioned by police, the person who assaulted you admits doing so because he doesn't like the line of work you are in, while the person who attacked your friend admits doing so because of your friend's race. Both attackers vow to strike you and your friend again as soon as their sentences are finished. Under New York's hate crime law, the person who assaulted you would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the local jail, while your friend's attacker would be charged with a felony, punishable by up to four years in state prison. The only difference between the two cases is what motivated the attackers during the assault. You can be certain that in today's political climate, your friend's attacker will most likely be sentenced to near four years in prison, while your attacker will likely get less than one year.

Does this seem fair to you? Does this seem right? What about the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution, which says no state shall make any law that deprives its' citizens equal protection? Are you getting less "protection" from your assailant than the protection your friend will receive? If so, is it justified by some larger good? We've published the results of your thoughts with this informal survey in a future article.

Categories: