≡ Menu

The Framers Would Have Hated Hate-Crime Legislation

Nat Hentoff hates hate-crime legislation — for good reasons.  Here’s a letter of his appearing in today’s Washington Post:

The Oct. 28 editorial “A civil rights advance,” applauding President Obama’s imminent signing of “hate crimes” legislation, ignored the legislation’s plain violation of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws.” As a result of this law, those convicted of serious bodily harm against protected classes of Americans — based on their gender or transgender identity, sexual orientation, disability, race, color, religion or national origin — could get longer prison sentences than persons convicted of bodily harm against victims outside protected classes. Perpetrators of a violent act not designated a “hate crime” — for example, against a homeless person on the street, or a police officer, or a former employer — could receive lesser prison terms.

Furthermore, the Fifth Amendment states: “Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This “hate crimes” statute gives federal prosecutors the authority to try a defendant a second time for an alleged hate crime after prosecution in a state court.

Nat Hentoff, New York

The writer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.