Keep Justice Blind

By Brad Holtz

With the recent murder of a gay college student at the University of Wyoming, the heated debate over "hate crime" has risen again. The murder was an awful one. The student, Matthew Shepard, was kidnapped, robbed, tied to a fence, beaten into a coma, and later died. The men that committed these crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, perhaps given the death penalty if it is available under Wyoming law. But an outrage ensued once the public learned of the student's sexual orientation and the "hate crime" debate once again ensued.

Many proponents for hate crime legislation are trying to tag extra prison time on to certain crimes for the simple reason that they were committed against minorities. Proponents to homosexual hate crime have recently said that homosexual targeted murders have been "a growing epidemic" in recent years. Not true. According to the FBI, only twelve murders due to "hate crime" were reported in 1996. That number is less than one fifteenth of one percent of all U.S. homicides. Very few gays, if any, were killed simply because of their sexual orientation. Is this really an "epidemic"?

Murder in itself is an epidemic but we certainly don't see stories of a single murder spread across the front pages of every paper when they happen. It happened in this case because the victim happened to be gay. Proponents of hate crime legislation are taking an "affirmative action" approach to justice in America. To the proponents, if the crime was committed against a minority, the accused should receive harsher penalties because the victims were minorities. If the victim is not a minority, a less severe penalty is in order - their suffering was not as important.

Isn't it odd that all sorts of religious and conservative figures have been blamed for the "rising" number of hate crimes? Just to name a few: James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Gary Bauer. These men have had nothing to do with any of these crimes committed. They are simply under the notion that has been in America for years - Justice is colorblind.

How is it possible to know the actual motivation in all crimes? If a gay is the victim of a crime, isn't it possible that the accused was not aware of the victim's sexual orientation? Perhaps the accused was just another thug robbing someone. Hopefully, this country can see eye to eye with people of all classes and treat all crime equally as bad. After all, justice is color blind in America and it should be blind to everyone's differences as well.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Joel Corbin

Bryant Lewis

Rush Reagan