Gays and Hate Crimes

There aren't many slicker defenders of anti-gay prejudice than Ramesh Ponnuru, and he's been outdoing himself recently. Here's a classic:

[Brad Plumer] seems to think that it would be bigoted for conservatives to accept laws against hate crimes while opposing their extension to cover hate crimes motivated by hostility to gays. I don't see why a conservative who thinks hate-crimes laws are a bad idea generally couldn't conclude that they aren't going to be uprooted from the statute books but shouldn't be expanded in scope, either. Politicians make this sort of judgment all the time.

Bigots? Nous? If gays were a minor or trivial category in this area, Ponnuru might have a debater's point. But, as a proportion of their population, gays are the largest single group victimized by hate crimes in the U.S., just behind all those targeted for their various religions (which includes over 90 percent of Americans, as opposed to the 3 percent that gays make up.) Doesn't excluding the most vulnerable group suggest a bizarre set of priorities? Take Ponnuru's and my religion, Catholicism. In 2004, there were 57 hate crime incidents recorded against Catholics. In the same year, there were 1,197 such incidents against gays - and yet Catholics vastly outnumber gays in the general population. What sense does it make to include Catholics (and Zoroastrians and Mormons) in hate crime laws but not gays - who are exponentially more likely to be victims? A reluctance to add to a law already in place - a law whose exclusion of gays was obviously deliberate in the first place? Or a signal to the Christianist base that their disdain for gay people is legitimate? Ponnuru knows the answer. And he also knows what the GOP establishment expects him to write.