In opposition to hate crimes laws, The News-Times trots out the often repeated arguments that hate crimes laws - which have been adopted in 45 states - are unequal, discriminatory and unnecessary. ("'Hate crimes' law? As opposed to what?" Sept. 23).
In fact, hate crimes laws are color blind. They equally protect all races, religions and national origins. In fact, the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of hate crimes laws involved the prosecution of a hate crime committed by a group of black men and teenagers against a white victim. And the latest FBI hate crimes statistics reflect that 19 percent of race-based hate crimes were perpetrated against whites.
It is interesting to note that among the Anti-Defamation League's strongest allies in pushing for hate crimes laws in Georgia are police chiefs and other law enforcement officers from across the state.
Certainly all crime is tragic. But on a recent morning, I sat in a Clayton County courtroom and listened to the indictment that has been filed against Troy Dale West, who is accused of the beating at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. As the victim listened, she heard the court repeat the charge that while beating her with his fists and shoes, West screamed foul racial epithets at her.
Surely this case is a dramatic example of why the vast majority of state legislatures have recognized the need for hate crimes laws. These crimes tear at our nation's core values, strike fear within victimized groups, and polarize entire communities.
The News-Times is right that Georgia has strong criminal laws and punishments. Indeed, the Legislature has found it appropriate to mandate higher penalties for individuals who commit crimes while associating with criminal street gangs and it has enacted specific laws criminalizing the abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly and disabled.
The Legislature should similarly recognize the magnitude of hate crimes by mandating penalty enhancements for these offenses.
Southeast Regional Director
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