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Friday, January 20, 2006

GOP Threatens "Hate Crimes" Lockdown

The State House Judiciary committee backed Rep. Alvin Holmes' bill to add "sexual orientation" to the state "hate crimes" law originally passed in 1994. The bill passed the Judiciary committee on a voice vote "largely along party lines".

However, the House GOP is throwing down the gauntlet on the issue. Rep. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) appears to be leading the charge and has threatened to "lock the House down" if the bill comes to the floor. The GOP appears ready to exploit their newly found numerical advantage if necessary. With the deaths of two Democratic representatives, the Democratic majority has gone from 63-41 to 61-41. Those two vacancies render House Democrats short of the necessary 3/5 majority necessary to stop debate (assuming the GOP votes in a block). And with ailing Rep. Lucius Black (D-York) unable to attend the session, there are actually only a maximum 60 Democratic votes available at any given time.

And it is this parliamentary maneuver that Republicans are threatening to employ if the Holmes' bill makes it to the floor. So, don't hold your breath in expectation of seeing an up or down vote on this bill. But if Democratic leaders decide to push the issue, then there will definitely be some fireworks.

I don't really understand either party's strategy on this issue though. Democrats had been distancing themselves as much as possible from any hint of social liberalism. And while adding sexual orientation is not an especially radical notion, it does give Republicans some chance to brand Alabama Democrats with the dreaded "L" word. No, not that one -- the other one.

And I'd think the AL GOP would jump at a chance to put House Democrats on record for or against this bill. It's no secret that the Republican road to a House majority runs through conservative Democratic districts. Wouldn't this be a good opportunity to put such members on the defensive? Republicans are almost letting the Democrats off the hook by preventing a vote.

I am especially curious about the Republican strategy because it is coming directly from their leadership, while the bill passing committee may or may not have had the blessing of Hammett and Guin. At the very least I doubt that the bill was originally backed by the Democratic leadership, but instead forced upon them by an insistent caucus.

And the situations are too different to be fairly compared, but in some ways State House Republicans are threatening to engage in the same "obstructionist" tactics over which US Senate Republicans berate Senate Dems. How long can it be until Seth Hammett compares Mike Hubbard to Tom Daschle?

But maybe I am missing some brilliant strategic gambit by one or both of the parties. Either way, it'll be interesting to see if Democrats force a showdown on the bill and if so just how far Republicans are willing to take their hardball.


Anonymous david in cullman said...

I hate crime too, but no one does anything about it unless the victims are black or gay. we dont need hate crime laws. the laws we have and the common law tradition we inherited from england provide proper limits and boundaries for civilized society. why should one class/group get special, extra protection while the rest of us dont. And, you could make the case they recieve extra proctection for behavior that condemns them to eternal damnation. I hope we dont get none of that wrath on us.
My professor says that since the 30's the court made the 14th amendment into a joke and there is no equal protection anymore, but only extra protection for blacks and homo's. I guess some pigs are just more equal than others, and of course, pigs= straight white males.

9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I think I agree with David to some degree. Isn't making a "hate crime" worse than a normal crime a criminalization of thought or intent? Shouldn't this be left to the judicial sentencing guidelines that give stricter sentences to more egregious crimes? This really could be a 14th Amendment issue.

However, if there is a "hate crime" then homosexuals should be on it. So my position is get rid of it all together or add homosexuals.

1:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP hates gays, pure and simple.

And somehow they call themselves Christians?

4:02:00 PM  
Anonymous another anonymous said...

To this old guy, a crime is a crime, and a victim is a victim. I would think that in most instances of a victim being injured, maimed, or killed, regardless of what caused that, some form of hate must have been involved. So what lamebrained idiot came up with the less than brilliant idea that certain races, sexes, sexually-orientated individuals, or any other class of humanity needs special laws to protect them from crime, or to punish the perps of those crimes in a different manner from all other crimes of a similar nature?

9:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally have a problem with the court being able to determine what is in a person's head when committing a crime. If that were possible, we would probably be able to prevent the crime in the first place.
Don't all crimes have the same end result?
Any lawyers want to chime in on 14th amendment concerns?

11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Rep. Ward and his fellow right-wing zealots are just out to discriminate against the gay community. Don't they deserve extra protection after years of discrimination? Rep. Ward's ultra-conservative line of thinking has no place in moving our state forward!

1:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert, but all punishment requires determination of Mens Rea -- latin for the guilty mind. This is why intent is important in determining how severe a homicide was. Homicide, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter are distinguished by the degree of intent, or the lack of mens rea (while all three result from the same Actus Rea -- the guilty act). So in response to Dan and the anonymous 5th commenter -- all criminal law considers thought or intent, and every criminal jury attempts to establish what's in a person's head when he commits a crime.

Hate Crime legislation is simply an extension of that. The hateful mind is simply deemed to be guiltier than the criminal mind lacking hate. And hate crime legislation only applies to already criminal acts. You can't be guilty of a hate crime simply for thinking hateful thoughts. I think on these grounds the hate crime makes sense.

I happen to dislike hate-crime legislation because it seems to accomplish the opposite of its intent -- inciting resentment from people like David in Cullman -- thereby increasing the level of hate.

I believe, and again, I'm not an expert, that the 14th amendment issue is void because there is would be very limitted grounds for standing. A criminal prosecuted for a hate crime because the act committed lacked protection to begin with. As long as he was afforded all of his 4th/5th amendment protections, he has been equally protected. The only case where I could imagine a 14th amendment case would be where a white man were to be killed by a black man because of his race. I could see a case where the white man's family sued the state for lack of equal protection if the black man were not prosecuted for a hate crime. Or for that matter, I could see a case where the family of a gay man. But these suits would seek to expand hate crime laws, not diminish them.

2:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops... the second sentence in the last paragraph should read:
"A criminal prosecuted for a hate crime wouldn't have standing for lack of equal protection because the act committed lacked protection to begin with."

3:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

crimes are committed because people want to take money, because they're extremely angry over something very personal, revenge, the list is long. but sometimes a crime is commited because someone hates what a person is. Animal Liberation Front extremists hate livestock farmers and commit crimes agaainst them. I'm a livestock farmer. should anyone who attacks and harms me physically be subject to a sentence above what he or she would be subject to for commiting the same crime against anyone else? part of the purposs of sentences is to deter others. wouldnt a sentence on top of a sentence deter others?

2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Animal Liberation Front crimes against livestock farmers are considered Terrorism, not Hate Crimes, but on some levels these are similar statutes. They increase the level of punishment for a crime because of some mental state.

Then again... not everyone who would attack or do physical (or economic) harm to you would do so because you are a livestock farmer. Not everyone who attacks a gay man or an indian immigrant does so because of their identities. But if a jury finds, based on the evidence presented, that hate was present in the criminal's mental state, the criminal would be subject to a greater punishment, and I think a greater deterrent effect would be established.

3:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we have a system inherited from england. it has worked for thousands of years. we improved the common law system and now have a model penal code and other statutes. Hate Crime Bills are nothing more than political payoffs; no better than a no bid siegelman contract;to usually immoral people with a pac.

10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous debbie murphree said...

Hate crimes, are just that. They evolve from a hatred of a specific act, or belief. Not all crimes are conducted from hatred. Some crimes are committed basically for the need of cash for drugs. Other crimes are committed for lack of restraint. However, specific crimes committed because of one's gender, sexuality, or color, should be specifically protected. Let's not lose sight here, of the specificity of Hate Crimes. Many people are homophobic, and therefore react differently, given a situation. I believe protection of all people should be guaranteed, but sadly that is not the case.

9:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Alabama Moderate said...

I agree to a point, Deb, but the fact is that a murder is a murder, a beating is a beating, and so on. The reasons behind why a person committed the act (aside from whether or not it was premeditated) does not make it more or less of a crime. If I am savagely beaten killed because I am a woman or a homosexual or a black individual, I am not any more or less dead than a white male who was savagely beaten and killed. I think that's the point a lot of people are trying to make. Hate crime legislation is just another form or unnecessary redundancy, and it is probably nothing more than election year politics.

11:16:00 AM  
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