May 4, 2009
Dear Congressman Boozman,
Recently, you made comments on a local TV station regarding a bill that was passed by the House and is on it's way to the Senate. This bill, called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, or the "Matthew Shephard Act", would extend the prosecution of hate crimes to crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people (LGBT). You have suggested that such a law is not necessary. Your stance is that hate crimes should be prosecuted as regular crimes, and do not need "special treatment". You further address the unfounded fear that this legislation would prevent pastors and priests from speaking out against homosexuality from their pulpits. I strongly disagree with both statements, and will address each one separately.
Statement #1: "“I opposed this legislation because it creates a new federal offense for so-called ‘hate crimes,’ and adds a special class crimes potentially motivated by the victims ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ or the ‘perceived’ thoughts of the alleged criminal. These are extremely subjective terms that will criminalize a person’s thoughts or motivations, rather than their actions. The message that Congress is sending with this legislation is that a politically-favored class of victims deserve greater protection under the law than others, such as our nation’s veterans and the elderly." --Quoted from your website at http://www.boozman.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=124536
Congressman Boozman, this is a stretch, to say the least. According to the law, in order to prosecute as a hate crime, it must be established that there was a clear bias toward the victim based on their race, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is not prosecuting their thoughts, but their actions. You and I are still free to think what we will and speak what we wish.
My second disagreement with you is in your stating that the people you mention above are a "politically favored class". From what I have seen in the past few years, this is far from the case. Crimes against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered men and women have been steadily increasing, according to the FBI. The case of Matthew Shephard, while especially brutal, is not an isolated incident. Each year, thousands of LGBT men and women are beaten, raped and/or murdered simply for who they are. And this is a "favored class"? A class that is not allowed the same rights as other men and women of heterosexual orientation? When is the last time you were not allowed to visit your wife at a hospital that she was in? Or for that matter, when were you unable to file your taxes with your spouse? When was the last time that your parenting skills were questioned because you were a heterosexual? This is a "politically favored class?" I think not.
Congressman, violence against LGBT men and women affects more than the victims. These crimes, especially when motivated by prejudice and hate, strike fear into a whole community. Is this not how we define terrorism? We prosecute terrorists because of their intent as well as their actions. How is this different from the above legislation? If we are able to prosecute terrorists because of their intent to strike fear and terror, then why should the same brush not be applied to those who commit hate crimes?
Statement #2: “It is a mistake to carve out a protection in the law for just one segment of people. This bill violates the equal-protection set forth in our Constitution. It is constitutionally suspect, infringes on states’ rights, and threatens religious freedoms and First Amendment Rights. It could also restrict free speech and lead to criminal prosecution of religious leaders or members of religious groups for expressing their religious beliefs.” --Quoted from http://www.boozman.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=124536
Congressman Boozman, this statement leads me to believe that you either have not fully read the law that you voted on, or that you are pandering to your political base. I am not sure which of these I find more disturbing. Allow me to take a direct quote from the end of the amendment as it was presented in the House of Representatives:
"SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.
Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution."
In other words, Congressman, the right of pastors, priests and street corner prophets to slander Gay, Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered men and women (LGBT) is protected, just as the right of groups like the Knights from Zinc, AR, to speak against anyone not White Anglo-Saxon Protestant is protected under the First Amendment. The only reason why someone would not be able to preach such messages would be if they included calls to violence against the LGBT community, and even this would be difficult to prosecute.
In short, Congressman Boozman, I believe you are wrong. I believe that you are actually pandering to the fears and prejudices of people in