Follow us:

Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Ref. 71 and hate crimes

Letters show a lack of understanding

The letters published on the Northwest Voices blog [seattletimes.com, Opinion] on May 13 show some lack of understanding about the issues raised: equal rights and hate crimes.

Lee Fowble of Edmonds writes that hate-crime legislation is unfair and unwarranted, making the erroneous argument that hate-crime legislation is about assigning greater value to some people’s lives than others.

This is not what hate-crime legislation is about. It is about terrorism. Attacking a person because of his or her identity is an attack on that identity; the attack terrorizes the entire group of people. It is this act of terrorism that merits the higher degree of punishment.

Frank King of Mill Creek chastises The Times for suggesting that we avoid signature-gatherers for Referendum 71, because apparently extending equal rights to everyone challenges his beliefs. If his belief is that people should not be given equal rights because of how God made them, then the majority of us with a sense of fairness should rightfully avoid the signature-gatherers, and The Times has a First Amendment right to so suggest.

— Roger Burton, Bothell

Hate crimes have broad, toxic effects

Lee Fowble misunderstands how hate-crime laws work. Punishment is not harsher for these crimes because of the minority status of the victims, but because of the bigoted motives of the perpetrator; the laws focus strictly on those motives. This is why, if a straight person is assaulted because the perp mistakenly believed he was gay, it’s still a hate crime.

Why harsher penalties for these crimes? Because they cause greater harm than their parallel, underlying crime. The victims include not merely the immediate victim, but the members of the broader target community to which the victim belongs. Moreover, these crimes have a broadly toxic effect, particularly on minority relations, that the larger society has a real interest in punishing harshly.

So a swastika painted on a synagogue is not treated like ordinary graffiti on an underpass, and a violent gay-bashing assault in which the perps seek out gay victims is not treated as a mere bar fight.

— David Neiwert, Seattle

Comments | More in Gay rights

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►