By Scott Tibbs, June 8, 2007
Candace Gingrich spoke in the Indiana Memorial Union last night in support of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to existing federal hate crimes law. Gingrich opened her speech congratulating the crowd for helping defeat the amendment to the Indiana Constitution that would have prohibited state government from recognizing homosexual marriage. As I explained two months ago, the problem with this is that the amendment was never really defeated.
Gingrich encouraged the crowd to be active in supporting the hate crime law, noting that the staff of one freshman U.S. Senator said that ten letters on an issue would be enough to at least make him pay attention to it. (The House version of the "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act", also named for Matthew Shepard, is H R 1592.) She then argued that when the merits of the bill are explained, there is really no argument against it. That really isn't the case, as I will explain.
First, Gingrich argued that the LLEHCPA does not punish thoughts, but violent acts. On the surface, this is true - if there are no violent actions to go along with hatred, then the LLEHCPA does not enter into the equation. The problem is that the LLEHCPA creates a special class of crimes based on the motivation of the criminal. If you kill someone because you are trying to steal his PlayStation 3, then the LLEHCPA does not affect you. If you kill someone because he is homosexual, black or disabled, you will be punished under federal law.
Note that there is a significant difference between intent to commit a crime (Mens Rea) and the motivation for doing so. The law should not deal with criminals differently because the motivation for a crime is currently politically unpopular, it should focus on whether the criminal intended to commit a crime. This is the best way to ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law.
Gingrich further argued that the LLEHCPA is not a penalty enhancement act, and that it "only" adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally protected classes. This is false on its face. The punishment at the federal level is in addition to punishments that already exist under state law, because the federal government has decided that certain motivations are worse than others.
Gingrich made a point of noting that the LLEHCPA expands the federal government's involvement in hate crime legislation beyond federally protected activity such as voting. The main problem I see with that is that it significantly expands the federal government's reach into dealing with local crime. One of the quickest paths to a serious loss of liberty is having the federal government involved in such matters with the ability to put people in prison. There is a very good reason why the founding fathers wanted to keep government close to the people and to have power decentralized. You need only to look at Waco for an example of a federal government out of control.
Hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism, Gingrich said, because they are meant to intimidate an entire community rather than just one person. That is a good point, and demonstrates why hate crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But does that mean that we should create a special class of victims? What about hate crimes committed against someone who belongs to a group not protected under federal hate crimes law? The answer isn't another law, the answer is to punish all violent crime to the fullest extent of existing law. If local law enforcement fails to provide equal protection under the law, the federal government has the existing Constitutional authority to act on those problems under the 14th Amendment.
I had the opportunity to talk to Gingrich after the meeting, which was an interesting experience. It is a rare privilege to speak with a national political figure, even if I do not agree with her on most issues. When I raised the question of federalism, she said she very rarely hears that argument from conservative opponents of the bill and seemed genuinely surprised to hear it. It is highly unfortunate that so many conservatives are less and less inclined to make principled federalist arguments against legislation such as the LLEHCPA. What a turn of events we have seen from the 1994 Republican Revolution
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Herald-Times knew about the event in advance, they did not bother to send a reporter. This is just shameful incompetence and laziness. Gingrich is a national political figure who has been covered in many national news outlets. If she was in Indianapolis or Fort Wayne for a similar lecture, I doubt the Star or the Journal-Gazette would miss an opportunity to cover the speech.