A reader writes:
While the new hate crimes bill may not be a deterrent in the short term, it will encourage victims to report the crimes--knowing that something might actually be done. (Just wait to see the rise in reported cases). Once more crimes are investigated and prosecuted, it could eventually raise awareness.
There was a time when young, black children were snatched off Southern streets and never heard from again. Lynchings were all too commonplace. But, enforcement of the Civil Rights act and subsequent laws against racially motivated hate crimes have been virtually eliminated what was once a too frequent scenario. It's easy to be cynical, but the law is a first step in the right direction; not to mention it is the first time "transgendered" has been included in federal legislation related to sexual orientation.
While I understand your philosophical objection to hate crime laws, this isn't purely about thought crime. NPR had a story this morning prominently mentioning some of the practical impacts of this legislation like federal resources for expensive forensics and prosecutions as well as improved crime statistics. Bringing hate crimes out of the closet matters too.
To paraphrase Dan Savage, it is true that hate crimes legislation will not create a force field around gay people and instantly provide them with new levels of protection from anti-gay violence. Hate crime legislation does, however, allow the federal government to provide resources to local governments as they investigate and prosecute hate crimes. In the Shepard case, prosecuting Matthew's two killers cost the county $150,000, forcing the county to furlough five employees (according to the Matthew Shepard Foundation's website). While hates crimes legislation would not have protected Matthew from the rage of his killers -- nor would it have added more time to their prison sentences -- it could have provided much-needed resources as Laramie struggled to deliver justice. I think this last point should not be dismissed so out of hand.
Hate crime laws: they're like when your mother buys you a Christmas present you can't stand and you have to say thank you anyway.
All I can say is that the Dish pledges to revisit this issue in a year's time - to assess the evidence that this law was more than mere symbolism. Given the vast amount of gay community resources and money that went into passing this - a decades' long effort - a little productivity check is in order.