To begin with, I have some concerns with hate crime legislature. I think hate crime laws are made for very, very good reasons, and I support the intentions. However, from a legal standpoint, I’m not convinced that motive should affect sentencing. Maybe it should, I don’t know. Do I think someone who steals to survive deserves to be sentenced as harshly as someone who steals out of boredom? Personally, no. But should the Justice System, which is theoretically blind, be blind to motive? …Maybe?
My point is, I’m not sure whether or not I can endorse hate crime legislation from a judicial standpoint. What makes a hate crime a hate crime? To paraphrase the South Park example, if a man kills his neighbor because he slept with the man’s wife, doesn’t he hate that man? Maybe it’s all semantics, maybe there does need to be protective legislation, and maybe there doesn’t. I really DO NOT KNOW, and therefore I won’t put my support for either side at this point.
What I do know, however, is that there are some things that people just shouldn’t get away with. I’m looking right at you, Virginia Foxx, representative of North Carolina’s fifth distraction in the Unites States of America’s House of Representatives. Yesterday, while sitting across from Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, Congresswoman Foxx said the following. And no, I am not making this up.
“I also would like to point out that there was a bill -- the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay....This -- the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."
Okay, how the fuck is anyone supposed to react to something like that?
How about by saying this: On October the 7th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was tortured by Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney outside of Laramie, Wyoming, subsequently dying because of his substantial injuries. The New York Times reported: “According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious.” Shepard never regained consciousness, and was pronounced dead at 12: 53 AM, October 12th, 1998.
None of these facts have ever been in dispute. In point of fact, Henderson and McKinney’s own lawyers would argued that they were temporarily driven insane, in a panic by Shepard’s alleged sexual advances towards them. That’s right, these murderous, bigoted scumbag’s own lawyers said they killed him because he offered gay sex to them. Both of their girlfriends testified at the trial that they had earlier plotted to rob a gay man. Henderson would eventually plead guilty and testify against McKinney, who himself was found guilty by a jury of peers.
“That young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery,” Congresswoman Foxx says. I supposed she thinks it was all an accident. Those misguided boys didn’t mean for him to die, they just got over excited, apparently. And it’s true, robberies do go wrong. A botched robbery usually looks like something like this, though: Robber approaches victim, to rob them. Something goes wrong, the robber panics. Robber accidently shoots victim, panics more, and often flees. A botched robbery doesn’t involve picking someone up at a bar to attack based on sexual orientation, driving him to the country, robbing him, beating him into a comma, and leaving him to die in a field tied to a fence. THAT is called premeditated murder. The robbery is incidental.
I’m not going to call Rep. Foxx a liar. It’s possible that she’s merely incredibly incompetent. She may simply have the single most misguided and useless collection of political advisors in the history of American Politics. It’s POSSIBLE. But to publicly suggest that Matthew Shepard’s death was some sort of freak accident- and THAT, Rep. Foxx, is EXACTLY what you are doing- is simply baffling. In front of his own mother, of all things.
Matthew Shepard was brutalized and murdered because he was gay. Not a single forensics worker or Wyoming police offer has ever suggested any thing else. Rep. Foxx has made a grossly false statement, and she should immediately apologize. Whatever her personal views on homosexuality are (and I doubt they’re overly accepting), that in no way justifies her dishonest statement, whether it was intentional or not. This isn’t about hate crimes, this is about directly misrepresenting the facts of a criminal case in a public forum.
Please, Congresswoman Foxx. Do the right thing and apologize. Now.