Originally created 03/19/00

Everyone isn't equal



A majority of Georgia's House of Representatives last Thursday initially tabled, on an 83-82 vote, so-called "hate crimes" legislation that imposes stiffer sentences for criminals who commit violent acts "because of bias or prejudice." The majority should have stuck with its first instinct.

Unfortunately it didn't. Minutes lat-

er, after listening to empty but nevertheless eloquent blandishments of proponents, a slightly revised bill passed with only 49 lawmakers opposed.

The one ray of hope for derailing this flawed legislation is that it must return to the Senate on Monday for approval of House changes. And, with only two days left in the General Assembly session, time could run out.

The House version allows juries to decide whether a defendant, once convicted of a crime, was motivated by "hate," and thus deserving of a stricter sentence. The Senate bill leaves such a decision up to a judge -- and several Superior Court judges have already openly complained that placing them in such a decision-maker role would be unconstitutional.

But here's the big question "hate crime" proponents have never properly addressed: Why is a crime more serious if it is motivated by racial or gender bias than out of greed, jealousy, revenge or just pure evil intentions?

To the victim of violent crime, the motive makes no difference. The vic-

tim is still dead or injured.

Here's a second question that was barely debated Thursday: Why must Georgians begin traveling down this road of "identity politics," and be forced to relate to one another as members of competing groups defined by race, gender or sexual orientation?

Have lawmakers forgotten that all brutal crimes deserve harsh punishment -- not just some crimes in the "special" categories of race and gender that the Senate version highlights?

What happened to that great national maxim, "Everyone is equal under the law"? Under these convoluted House and Senate "hate crimes" bills, everyone isn't.