Running head: HATE CRIME The Hate/Bias Crime: What is the answer? The Hate Crime is violence or harassment motivated by a bias against a victim's characteristics which include race, religion, ethnic background, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, and represents a serious threat to all communities. Experts estimate that a bias-related crime is committed every 14 minutes. Criminal justice officials and state policy makers need to realize that it is key to make or adjust hate crime legislation. This has been a heated debate for the last century. I think more hate crime legislation is the key to solving the ever-growing problem of hate crimes.

The first legislative efforts to address bias-related crimes dated back to the late 19 th century, which was a response to the expanding Ku Klux Klan and segregation in the south. Such laws included mandates against wearing masks and hoods. The next wave of legislation relating to hate crimes resulted from the movement for increased protection for civil rights in the face of widespread racial prejudice shown by segregated buildings and restricted access to public and private resources. The most recent legislation has been directed specifically to acts of hate against people of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, S. 625, also known as the Hate Crime Prevention Act, if enacted would strengthen current law as it relates to hate crimes motivated by a victim's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

Hate crimes are not only destructive to the victims themselves, but also damaging to the victim's families and friends. It also is very damaging to our American ideals. America stands and shines for diversity and equality. In a way, hate crimes are not only threatening to the individual being attacked but to America as a whole. Last year, Congress had the chance to pass strong hate crimes legislation.

On June 19, 2000, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2000 was approved by the senate as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. People who act on hate need to know their punishment will be severe and harsh. Hate crimes threaten the safety of many citizens and in a way disrupts the entire community. Hate crimes can and will not be tolerated. Hate crimes are a harsh reality in the United States. The reason it is so hard to come to a conclusion of if there should be more hate crime laws is because there are so many pros and cons towards this issue.

One argument is if hate crime laws are put into place, it darkens the lines between groups of people. How is this promoting tolerance? I don't believe it darkens lines. In fact I think it does the opposite. It shows people that we are equal by the very fact that the U. S government is not going to put up with crimes that are against someone because they are different. Another argument is that the government should not punish people more harshly based on their feelings that motivated their crime, instead of the crime committed.

I think the reason behind a crime is just as important as the crime committed. For example, let's say, a woman killed her husband by shooting him, lets say, in the heat of passion or out of anger. She would be guilty of Murder 2 nd and would hopefully go to jail. Now if she planned and plotted to kill him it becomes Murder 1 st and the penalty becomes a lot more hash, as it should.

Hate crimes should be the same. If a man was assaulted just because he is black, this should be punished greater than if that same man was assaulted in a common disagreement. Of course the burden of proof becomes a little more difficult. The United States needs to have hate-crime legislation.

Crime is obviously bad enough, but when it is purely because one is different, it goes against everything America stands for. As our former President said, "These are not like other crimes, because these crimes target people simply because of who they are, and because they do, they strike at the heart of who we are as a nation." This is probably the only thing President Clinton ever said that I agree with! ! Another key argument against hate crime legislation is the fact that these crimes are already illegal. So making harsher laws wouldn't really change anything. If a person feels the need to ignore the law, how would making a harsher sentence make that much of a difference? I don't think people really ignore the law. But unfortunately people, which includes criminals, have this thought that nothing really bad is going to happen to them.

They really think they will not get caught. Maybe if the laws were harsher, they will think twice before committing a hate crime. One main group of people that hate crime is effecting more and more everyday are homosexuals. A good example is what happened to Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming Student. Shepard was an openly gay man beaten senseless on the Wyoming prairie and left alone in the frigid night tethered to a fence post. Shepard's death gave energy to gay and lesbian activists who say existing laws fail to protect them from random violence.

Some say that making a new law to protect homosexuals would give homosexuals and others special rights. There are laws protecting woman from discrimination, do they have special rights? Most people would say no. I think the problem is that people need to be a little more tolerant of others differences, but if this were true, there would not be any Hate Crimes; wishful thinking. Another argument for anti-hate crime legislation is that the reason why homosexuals want Congress to enact laws to protect them would make what they are doing seem right in the public's eye. Homosexuals can't force our culture to accept their lifestyle, so they are trying to do it legislatively. That is a different story.

Mark Poto k of the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama, tracks violence against blacks, gays and others, said attacks against gays tend to be more severe than offenses against other groups. According to his records, twenty one men and women were slain in the United States in 1996 because of their sexual orientation. In 1999 there were a total of 1, 960 separate incidents against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender population. As anyone can see hate crimes are on the rise. A huge argument for more hate crime legislation is that it is not necessary. Many say that, "who is to say which crime is worse then another, murder is murder." So, are they saying someone shooting someone is the same as what happened to, let's say, Billy Jack Gaither.

Gaither was beaten and killed with an ax handle and then thrown onto burning tires. Are these two murders the same? They defiantly are not and they should not be handled the same. Hate crime offenses are far more serious than comparable crimes that do not involve prejudice, because hate crimes are intended to intimidate an entire group. Hate crimes go against everything our country was founded on, which are principles of equality. Some startling facts are that there are 547 active hate groups in the United States.

In early 2000, the Internet witnessed an increase in hate sites to a total of 305. Obviously, anyone can see that the problem is increasing; maybe because it is easier to hate than except. There are thousands of examples I could present to show how hate crimes are more severe then normal crimes. What compares to a man named Buford Furrow firing 72 bullets into a day-care building because it was part of a Jewish community center, or a man named Nathaniel Smith, who went on a deadly killing spree in the Midwest that targeted minorities, or the many times people are harassed or beaten for just walking down the street in the "wrong neighborhood." The examples are endless.

The fight against hate crimes on the national and local levels must become more aggressive on enforcement and prosecution. Under existing federal law, a person or group convicted of crimes against someone who was targeted because of, "the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation" faces stiffer federal penalties than those provided under state law. The proposed legislation would eliminate the current requirement that the government prove the perpetrator's intent. Instead, federal prosecutors could go after hate crimes without proving that the perpetrator was motivated by prejudice. More hate crime legislation will help give victims increased protection, keep streets safer and increase the punishment for vicious criminals who base their attacks on hate and bias.

Then we can give these criminals who commit these crimes the punishment they deserve, while in turn give the innocent victims the peace of mind to know that justice is served. No matter what happens in Congress, 42 states are already prosecuting hate crimes. I guess it's a slow start to a tough battle. Bibliography "Clinton Again Urges Widening Hate-Crime Law." Washington Post.

By Charles Babington. American Online. "Fighting Hate Crimes." ABCnews. com. American Online "Hate Crime." The National Center for Victims of Crime.

Statistics. American Online. "To Fight Hate, Don't Over-Legislate." Washington Post. By Kimberly Potter.