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November 1, 2009

Prof. Sherry Colb: hate crimes are not the same as thought crimes

FindLaw columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb takes strong issue with a commonly-heard objection to the proposed bill, which President Obama signed this week, that would expand the scope of the federal hate crimes law to encompass hatred based upon gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The objection contends that to ban a hate crime is to ban a "thought crime," when we all ought to have freedom of thought and speech. Colb responds that, to the contrary, to look to a perpetrator's motivation for committing a proven crime is a far cry from criminalizing thought or speech alone. She also covers the Supreme Court's two key hate crimes case, explicating the reasoning of the two and explaining why the Court accepts punishment enhancements based on motivation. Finally, she points out that conservative critics of the bill's emphasis on crimes' motivations are plainly comfortable with looking to motivation in other contexts -- such as in a sui! t alleging that an employer has committed so-called "reverse discrimination" against a white employee -- and thus, she suggests that their real discomfort must be with gay rights, not with the bill's focus on motivation.

-SS

November 1, 2009 | Permalink

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