John Boehner claimed, apparently with a straight face, that "Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance." When did Republicans start opposing capital punishment, again? I missed that day. Gee, one of the reasons I remain a Republican (though In Name Only, I'm constantly told) is that I believe strongly that certain people (mass murderers, killers motivated by ideology or money, and people who poison wells, for example) should be put to death. Most Republicans will defend a person's right to kill somebody for breaking into his home, or even for breaking into a neighbor's home. Are they willing to defend the trespasser's life "with equal vigilance"? I doubt it very much.
John Boehner's spokesman (and I suspect soon-to-be former spokesman) Kevin Smith adds that Boehmer supports existing hate crime legislation based on immutable characteristics, like religion and gender, but not on changeable characteristics like (apparently) sexual orientation or disability. (Uh, fact check: gender isn't actually covered under existing law; its part of the proposed expanded legislation.) I am again surprised to learn that the Republican Party is apparently endorsing the extreme position taken by Islamic militants—a person who has once joined a religion is a member for life. Doesn't this conflict with the First Amendment—you know, that whole pesky "freedom of religion" thing? Oh, yeah, that's right—the words "freedom of religion" don't actually appear in the Constitution; that's some fantasy cooked up by historical revisionists and activist judges. God, it's getting harder to keep up with the lunacy.
Republican Tom Price (whom I've never heard of before, thank the gods) calls all hate crime legislation "a despicable and unconstitutional bill that penalizes thought and places a premium on some classes of individuals over others". He claims to believe that "All violent crimes demonstrate hate"—this in the teeth of common sense. You don't have to hate your grandma to murder her for her money; you just have to put your own wishes above her continued existence. And what about "premeditation"—the thing that distinguishes first-degree murder from its lesser cousins? Doesn't that penalize thought? I mean, the victim is just as dead whether he was killed in the heat of an argument or in cold blood with malice aforethought. Murder vs. self-defense, rape vs. consensual sex, theft vs. borrowing—all of these involve reading minds, as the pro-hate-crimes crowd looks at it, that is, determining the motives of the people involved. All of these in Tom Price's idiotic world must then be written off as crimes, since we don't want to penalize thought, or place a premium on some classes of individuals (women who don't consent to sex, say?) over others (women who do, for example?).
And Price's spokesman Brendan Buck added a further touch of lunacy: "We believe all hate crimes legislation is unconstitutional..." I'm not sure under what clause they think the absolute right to commit crimes motivated by hate falls, but no, there is nothing in the Constitution that forbids looking into a person's motives for committing a crime, and for judging the severity of the crime accordingly. Our entire penal code is shot through with just those sorts of issues.
And finally, another gem from Kevin Smith: the present changes in the law "could eventually invite the prosecution of Americans for their thoughts and religious beliefs, basic provinces protected by the First Amendment." First I would point out that thoughts and religious beliefs are not actually covered by the First Amendment, which protects only religious expression (the "free exercise" clause). Thoughts and beliefs are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; they are protected only by an implied right to privacy without which the First and Fourth Amendments at least make little sense. I can think all I like about how much I'd like to go out and murder my noxious neighbor. I can believe, if I like, that he is a blight on humanity and the world would be a better place without him. I may even hold as a religious view that I am required to go out and eliminate this pestilence from the face of the earth. I can make plans about how I would go about murdering him. Hell, I even have the right to go out and buy the materials I'm going to need to carry out my plan, assuming that no illegal substances are involved. But fantasy is one thing, and reality another. If I carry out the crime, if I murder this obnoxious fellow, then my thoughts and beliefs and the actions I carried out in furtherance of my plans are all fair game to determine my motive, and in particular, whether the crime was premeditated.
I can see no valid reason why anybody who is not planning on running about murdering gay men or beating up women or whatever depraved fantasy turns him on should be opposed to this bill. If the idea is that it may have a chilling effect on people advocating violence against women (whether from the pulpit or from any other venue), or against various minority groups, well, yeah, I kind of hope it does. People shouldn't actually urge their followers to commit violent acts. And if your religion says that you should murder your daughter for bringing shame on her family, or that you have a right to beat a man to death for your perception of his sexual orientation, then maybe it's time to change your fucking religion.
Oh, yeah, I forgot—religion is one of those immutable things.