Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mr. Party-Line Beats Mr. Tolerance

Last week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a giant sized story on their new favorite cover boy, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. I'm so use to seeing him rubber stamp the Bush agenda and vote lockstep with his party, that I was actually surprised by one small comment in an isolated paragraph. The section of interest was subtitled, "Learning from gay friends" and described how Ryan is allegedly not a culture warrior. The story doesn't address the issue for very long, in fact this is what it says in its entirety:

One social issue where he broke with most House Republicans was his support for federal legislation banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"I take lot of crap for that vote" from conservatives, says Ryan, who doesn't consider himself a strict libertarian but says his views lean that way on this may be informed by just friendships I've had,...issue. "The way I see that people I grew up with in Janesville who didn't choose to be gay. It wasn't an orientation they decided to experiment (with) or choose. It's just who they are. They were just created that way."

Unfortunately in a vote yesterday, Mr. Tolerance lost out to Mr. Party Line. The House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act Thursday without the help of any Wisconsin Republicans including Paul Ryan. Apparently his tolerance for the LGBT Community doesn't extend past employment discrimination. Apparently trying to protect communities that are often the target of brutal hate crimes goes just a little too far for Congressman Paul Ryan. The Human Rights Campaign describes the legislation that he voted against as follows:

The LLEHCPA gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

Oh the horror! Now I can see why Paul Ryan chose party line over tolerance! Naturally I'm being sarcastic, because I can't figure out exactly why this sort of legislation is so controversial unless you are just completely and totally hateful of gay people. Contrary to right wing paranoia, it does not prevent or in any way regulate a person's right to free speech. It is only engaged after a violent CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED. It is tied to a crime not to simple speech or personal beliefs! And let's not pretend that we don't already have statutes on the books that increase penalties for crimes depending on the motivation of the criminal. Manslaughter is treated differently than premeditated murder. Likewise, we punish violent crimes that are done as terrorist acts more severely than if they were not done with a terrorist motive. So this legislation is really nothing new at all, it just includes a new groups of victims – the scary gays.

If this were really about some problem with the idea of punishing criminals differently based on their motivations, then where is the great conservative movement to repeal some of the examples of laws that I just listed above? Why haven't they made it their mission in life to remove the groups that are currently protected by hate crimes law, like those who are victimized based on their religion? The only time that we see a big uproar is when we are trying to include added protection for the often targeted members of the LGBT Community. The most extreme elements that make up the right wing base, simply will fight anything gay. End of story. Unfortunately there are all too many elected officials like Paul Ryan that are willing to turn in their tolerance in exchange for party-line approval.


Grandpa Eddie said...

There's another place where a crime is treated differently, and that's when a police officer or Federal employee is assaulted or killed. The punishment then doubles.

Mike H said...

You know, it might have more to do with a fundamental problem with hate crimes legislation as a matter of principle, rather than gay-bashing.

There are legitimate legal and constitutional arguments to be made against this type of legislation. You might want to consider the fact that people can disagree on some issues without hating one group or another. After all, Ryan did vote to include sexual orientation under anti-discrimination laws.

Cory Liebmann said...


I know that is the talking point but it doesn't hold up. If these folks are so opposed to the idea of hate crimes why do they only wait to object when we are seeking to include the lgbt community? I made this point in the blog but i guess I have to restate it...why don't they work just as hard to repeal hate crime and other protections based on religion for example? Their inaction on that speaks volumes.

I understand their legal arguments on this, which is exactly why I pointed out the other ways that we charge people more severely depending on their motives. You can't be for those but against hate crime laws. I'd like to hear someone explain how that position is consistant.