Why “hate crime” laws are not the answer

Hello Friends in the Philadelphia area.
I know we are all shocked and saddened by the brutal beating by a roving mob of white catholic-school partyers.
Here is the article from a radical christian-right group that managed to void the hate crime law that had been passed in PA in 2002.

With this beating of 2 men in Center City, I’ve seen that many people around Philly want to have hate crime punishments available for violent acts against people perceived as gay.
I oppose so-called hate crime laws, here’s why:

These paragraphs are from Dean Spade’s book NORMAL LIFE: Adminstrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and The Limits of Law.

“I argue that the anti-discrimination/hate crime law strategy actually misunderstands how power works and what role law has in the functions of power. The anti-discrimination/hate crime law strategy relies on the belief that if we change what the law says about a particular group to make it say “good things” (e.g. creating laws that say you are not allowed to fire someone just because they are trans (or beat up someone just because they seem gay) and not “bad things” (e.g. eliminating laws that explicitly criminalize people for cross-dressing or having certain kinds of sex) then those peope’s lives will improve. This approach to law reform relies on an individual rights framework that emphasizes harms caused to individuals by other individuals who kill or fire them because they are member of the group. It seeks remedies that punish individuals who do those harmful things movitivated by bias. This analysis misunderstand how power functions and can lead to approaches to law reform that actually expand the reach of violent and harmful systems.(my emphasis) In order to properly understand power and transphobic harm, we need to shift our focus from the indivudal rights framing of discrimnation and “hate violence” and think more broadly about how gender categories are enforced on all people in ways that have particularly dangerous outcomes for trans people.” …p. 29

… “Hate crime laws to not have a deterent effect. They focus on punishment and cannot be argued to actually prevent bias-motivated violence. In addition to their failure to prevent harm, they must be considered in the context of the failures of our legal systems and, specifically the violence of our criminal punishment system. Anti-discrimination laws are not adequately enforced. Most people who experience discrimination cannot afford to access legel help, so their experiences never make it to court. Additionally, the Supreme Court has severely narrowed the enforceability of those laws over the last thirty years, making it extremely difficult to prove discrimiation.”.. p. 82

… “In a neoloberal era characterized by abandonment (reduction of social safety net and infrastructure, especaily in poor and people of color communities) and imprisonment (increased immigration and criminal law enforcement), anti-discrimination laws provide little relief to the most vulnerable people.” .. p.83

… “The relationship of lesbian and gay law reform projects to the field of criminal law provides an obvious and useful expample. The two major interventions of lesbian and gay law reformers in criminal law have been advocating the decriminalization of sodomy and passage of sexual orientation-inclusive hate crime laws. The choice of these two targets demonstrates the “what the law says about us” focus of the work. If the aims were to reduce the number of lesbian and gay people in prisons and jails or to reduce the medical neglect, nutritional deprivation, rape, and murder of queer people who are imprisoned, the legal strategy would have been vastly different. It might have focused on supporting people currently imprisoned, joining and creating lawsuits focused on prison conditions, opposing sentencing enhancements for drugs and other criminalized behaviors that are responsible for the bulk of imprisonment for all people (including lesbian and gay people), fighting against police violence, actively resisting prison expansion and criminalization, and joining efforts toward prison abolition. Instead, the goal of the interventions taken up by the most well-resourced lesbian and gay organizations was to merely alter the parts of the criminal law that explicitly name lesbian and gay people as criminnal solely for behavior associated with homsexuality and to lobby to be added to the list of populations explicitly (but not actually) protected by criminal law. p.125

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