A reader writes:

I get why a libertarian-leaning conservative like yourself would be against hate crime legislation. I really do. But I've often found myself questioning whether or not you and/or folks of your ilk would be against any kinds of legal distinction under the law. For example, should aggravated sexual assault simply be considered a violent crime, rather than a specific crime having to do with non-rape violence of a sexual nature? Or perhaps, from the same viewpoint, all crimes of a sexual nature ought to be considered sex crimes. In that case, should there be a distinction between aggravated rape, coerced statutory rape, consensual statutory rape, and child molestation?

The reason I bring these to your attention is because motivation does indeed factor into all of these. If a 25-year-old man has sex with a willing girl, only to find out after the fact that she was sixteen at the time, that's still statutory rape in many states; but the guy likely won't get tried as a child molester, nor will he be tried for criminal sexual assault if there was no actual assault going on. On the flip side, an angry, sexually frustrated guy who beats up and forces sex on a woman is going to be tried differently for his different motivation.

I guess it boils down to how you see the law. I personally am not one who believes that all people are equal under the law; I believe that equal people are equal under the law. Two child molesters who touch little kids because of some psychopathology should be tried the same; but a child molester and a consensual statutory rapist shouldn't be. Same with hate crimes, in my view: You have to take into account motivation.

Does this mean that everything currently classed as a hate crime actually is one? No. I think often the definition of hate crime has gone too far in an authoritarian direction as an attempt to criminalize thought rather than showing by example why those thoughts are wrong. But there are societal implications, too. When four white guys beat on a black guy because he's black, or vice-versa, that actually adversely affects our society in a worse way than if they were just robbing him or beating him up because he was a guy they didn't like.

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