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Easy answer for the GOP Dan, they will say it is unfortunate their son was killed and that we have to enforce the laws about murder blah blah blah. What they will NOT do is equate the hate speech of the religious right and the GOP as a contributing factor to such violence.

To sum up: Murder is bad but our right wing values had nothing to do with it.

Posted by Just Me | November 20, 2007 9:16 AM

Yes it is a good question, but I would have put it another way.

"As president, will you sign into law the hate crimes bill?"

They way they put it, the GOP assholes have too much room to bullshit their way out of a direct answer.

Then again, what do I know? I've never lost a child to hate murder.

Posted by Mike in MO | November 20, 2007 9:17 AM

Yeah. This really isn't going to be a tough question.

Mitt would have the best answer. Rudy would say something about New York. Fred will say something insane.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 20, 2007 9:20 AM

I am against gay bashing or any kind of bashing but I still don't get the hatecrime thing. If the guy had been killed for his wallet instead of being gay then the killer should be given a lighter sentance?

Posted by muckfetro | November 20, 2007 9:27 AM

muckfetro: If he had been killed for his wallet, the killer would not have been sending a message to the rest of the community. When someone is targeted for their race, sexual orientation, etc; the killer is targeting everyone like him/her and saying, "this will be you next time."

Also, Federal hate crimes law provide resources and alternatives for the victims. Say for instance someone is murdered in Bumfuck County, AL. Do you think the local sherriff is really going to do his best to bring the killer to justice? No way in hell. With the federal HCL, the victim (or victim's family) can bring in the FBI. No more sweeping under the rug.

Posted by Mike in MO | November 20, 2007 9:40 AM

Hate crimes statutes take motive into consideration -- which we routinely do when determining, say, 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree murder charges. Premeditation, crime of passion, insanity defenses. State of mind, intent, and, yes, thought have always been parsed by our criminal justice system.

A hate crime does not just target the immediate victim. It targets a group, and as such it represents a crime against pluralism, really. People that engage in hate crimes are seeking to shred the fabric of our society. It's not a more serious crime than the murder and/or bashing itself, but it can and should be taken into account when charges are being leveled and sentences are being handed out.

And hate crimes laws, federal ones, currently cover race, sex, and religious belief -- it's only really become controversial when we seek to add sexual orientation.

Posted by Dan Savage | November 20, 2007 9:46 AM

Rudy: On September 11th, I learned how dangerous and destructive hate can truly be, so I feel your pain. This is why those who cause us harm because they hate our freedoms must be brought to justice, and those who kill our sons and daughters - for any reason - must be found and punished under the law.

Where do I send my bill?

Posted by Levislade | November 20, 2007 9:48 AM


I believe the idea here is that a hate crime is actually a kind of terrorism in that the violence is carried out including the intention of *sending a message to other members of the targeted group* that they too could be harmed if they are too political, or too out (purse, yamaka, letter to editor, voting, etc.), or too whatever.

On an individual basis it is a crime to physically threaten an individual when that person would have a reasonable belief you would carry out your threat. Perhaps this can be seen sort of like that.

I'm sure others can say this better, but I that is reasoning I find comprehensible and compelling.

Posted by mirror | November 20, 2007 9:50 AM

Muckfetro wrote:

If the guy had been killed for his wallet instead of being gay then the killer should be given a lighter sentance?

No one answered your question directly, Muckfetro, but what they all said was in essence, "Yes, because the wallet thief murderer was not also an anti-homosexual terrorist."

Mirror wrote:

I believe the idea here is that a hate crime is actually a kind of terrorism in that the violence is carried out including the intention of *sending a message to other members of the targeted group*

Mirror: Good call. Maybe we should start equating hate crime with terrorism. I'm not particularly comfortable with the current popular definition of terrorism, which is, "actively opposing world domination by the American Empire."

Posted by Phil M | November 20, 2007 10:23 AM

not only is it a crime against a group, but when a group is singled out and attacked despite the current laws, then you have to give those crimes special attention. this, too, is not unique to hate crimes.

Posted by infrequent | November 20, 2007 10:28 AM

I don't think the legal justification for hate crimes laws is that they are crimes against a whole group. I'm pretty sure the legal justification for hate crime laws is that some communities (and states) don't prosecute crimes against minorities well, so there needs to be federal protection.

For example, black people used to be assaulted and killed regularly while local officials turned a blind eye. Trans and gay people are currently assaulted in many communities with no local protection.

Posted by jamier | November 20, 2007 10:37 AM

I found the video honest and touching. While it may not make the debate, you can't reasonably expect that posing their question in a more aggressive tone would increase its chances of getting selected for a GOP function.

I feel like this is a question pointed more at other voters (especially parents) than the candidates themselves -- regardless of the responses it may or may not generate (if it even gets played at the debate), I don't see how anybody couldn't feel empathy for the couple in the video. (And by anybody I mean any sane person; as in not a fundamentalist crazy but a swing voter.)

Posted by LuliaQ | November 20, 2007 10:45 AM

Mike in MO every time a crime is committed the perpetrator is sending a message to the rest of the community. That message is that they don't care to live by the laws everyone else does. Why will being charged with a hate crime deter them? Murder, incitement to violence and assault are already crimes and yet there is still gay bashing. The phrase Hate crimes is too orwellian for my liking.

Posted by mike | November 20, 2007 11:03 AM

mike: I disagree with your premise regarding the message being sent, but what about the point about the resources? jamier's point about local law enforcement turning a blind eye?

Posted by Mike in MO | November 20, 2007 11:10 AM

i'm sorry, but i can't hear the phrase "send a message" with a straight face anymore after seeing "citizen ruth" maybe we should come up with another phrase, one which is not a political cliche. how about..."make a statement"? or "send a dead fish wrapped in newspaper"? this is what thinktanks and speachwriters are for, i guess.

Posted by ellarosa | November 20, 2007 11:17 AM

It's dangerous to criminalize thoughts and belief systems, however repugnant they are...

Posted by thought crimes | November 20, 2007 11:52 AM

@ 16,

They already do that--it's called motive.

Posted by Original Andrew | November 20, 2007 12:06 PM

@16: It's a good thing no one's doing that, then.

@11: It's actually both; there's legislative history indicating both motivations.

Posted by Anonymous Coward | November 20, 2007 12:07 PM

People who commit crimes based on a demographic factor are more likely to reoffend, IMHO.

If a guy kills his wife, it's a crime against a specific person who's now dead.

If a guy kills a guy because he's black, there's a lot more black people and he's just as likely to continue going after them.

Therefore, additional time behind bars is justified.

But the ability to bring in the Feds for cases the locals won't touch is a good point to make for people who keep screaming "thought crime!"

Posted by Aexia | November 20, 2007 12:43 PM

Dan, my dream is to have you moderate one of these Republican debates. Even a Democratic debate would be incredible. How can we make this happen?

Posted by The Gay Recluse | November 20, 2007 12:45 PM

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