New hate crimes laws

Although all crime is deplorable, to attack someone out of hatred is especially so. Recently, the Senate narrowly passed legislation that would enhance what can be called a hate crime. Sexual orientation, gender and disability would join race, religion and national origin as categories of hate crimes. Despite the impassioned debate, Senators decided appropriately.
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott opposed the measure because he feels that states are doing a sufficient job prosecuting hate crimes. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah worried that the measure was overly broad. The two Republican senators were concerned that eager federal prosecutors could infringe upon states’ rights. However, not every state has legislation punishing hate crimes. Texas and Wyoming, for example, have both recently witnessed hate crimes, yet lack the laws to fully punish the perpetrators. The new measures would allow the federal government to prosecute when states are unwilling. The benefits of nationwide statutes to prosecute hate crimes, instead of many independent systems, are enormous.
Behind this debate lingers the question of whether hate crimes require special prosecution. Most people would agree that certain crimes are worse than others and deserve harsher punishment. Hate-crimes legislation does not exist to downgrade other forms of crime. Instead, the laws remind us that some ideas carry more severe consequences.