There seem to be a lot of objections to it from the conservative world, some reasonable, most (in my opinion) not. In the interests of cogency, I'll begin with the reasonable objections.
The basic argument against H.R. 1592 is the argument against "hate crimes" legislation in general: that it clutters the lawbooks with unnecessary and redundant laws, and that it differentiates between "classes" of citizens (in this case, crime victims) - thus enshrining the very inequality it purports to fight. What is needed, the conservative argument goes, is not special laws to protect certain classes of people, but better enforcement of existing laws against common crime.
I have some respect for this position, but I think it misses a couple of key points. First, the purpose of hate crimes laws is to target bias-motivated crime; that is, it's the motive of the aggressor, not the identity of the vicitm, that's the determining factor. Now you may agree or disagree with that on principle, but there's no basis for the claim that the law operates on the basis of the victim's identity. Here's what HR 1592 says:
Sec. 249. Hate crime acts
`(a) In General-
`(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person--
`(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--
`(i) death results from the offense; or
`(ii) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-
`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--
`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--
`(I) death results from the offense; or
`(II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
There's a lot more at the link, of course. Now I think the language of "actual or perceived race, etc." is a problem because it seems to suggest the opposite, i.e. that the victim's race (or other status) is itself part of the law's concern. It would be better if the text read only "perceived race, etc." because it's the perp's perceptions that we care about. But a little farther down you can find the following:
`(b) Certification Requirement- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General that--
`(1) such certifying individual has reasonable cause to believe that the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person was a motivating factor underlying the alleged conduct of the defendant;
which ought to clear things up. Bottom line: the victim doesn't automatically get to claim "bias crime" just because he or she is a different race (or whatever) from the perpetrator.
The second point I want to make is that bias laws don't just apply to certain groups or "minorities". But don't take my word for it. Here's a clip from the FBI's 2004 hate crime statistics:
Racial bias motivated crimes against 5,119 hate crime victims of single-bias incidents. Nearly 68 percent (67.9) of the victims were the object of an anti-black bias. Slightly more than 20 percent (20.1) were victims of an anti-white bias, 5.2 percent were victimized because of an anti-Asian or Pacific Islander bias, and 2.0 percent were victims due to an anti-American Indian or Alaskan native bias. Victims of anti-multiple races bias, i.e., groups in which more than one race was represented, comprised 4.9 percent of hate crime victims.
In 2004, law enforcement agencies reported that there were 1,586 victims of crimes motivated by a religious bias (single-bias incidents only). Most (67.8 percent) were victimized because of an anti-Jewish bias. An anti-Islamic bias motivated offenses against 12.7 percent of victims, and an anti-Catholic bias provoked crimes against 4.3 percent. Victims of an anti-Protestant bias made up 3.0 percent of victims of hate crimes resulting from a religious bias; other religions, 9.3 percent; and multiple religions, group, 2.5 percent. The remaining 0.4 percent of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offender’s anti-Atheism or anti-Agnosticism bias.
In terms of single-bias incidents motivated by a sexual-orientation bias, law enforcement reported 1,482 victims, most of which (60.9 percent) were victims of crimes motivated by an anti-male homosexual bias. In addition, 21.2 percent of victims were targets of an anti-homosexual (male and female) bias. Slightly more than 14 percent (14.3) were victims of an anti-female homosexual bias, 2.4 percent were victimized because of an anti-heterosexual bias, and 1.2 percent were targets of an anti-bisexual bias.
Obviously I've added the bolding here; the point is that phrases like "race" and "sexual orientation" mean what they say; the law recognizes a bias crime as a bias crime. So, does anti-bias law protect straight white Protestant males? Yes.
You can go to the Wikipedia article on hate crime laws in the United States for an informative, readable, jargon-free roundup of information on the subject. Here's what Wiki says about federal law:
Current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity (see 1969 law, infra). Legislation is currently pending that would add gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity, and disability to this list, as well as remove the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity ...
Now, I'd originally planned to spend a lot of space rebutting Andrew Jaffee's rant at Israpundit but I don't think it's really worth the effort. In Jaffee's favor, though, I'll point out that the section he quotes about eliminating "the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery" has been stricken from the text of the bill, and rightly so, in my opinion; and as I've already said, I have a problem with the "real or perceived" business for the same reason Jaffee does.
Jaffee goes on to quote a WND article which alleges that 1592 is
similar to a state law that already has been used to send grandmothers to jail for their "crime" of sharing the Gospel of Jesus on a Philadelphia public sidewalk.
I'm not familiar with the specifics of this case, but I take everything WingNutDaily says with a grain of salt. So I'll just zip right to my next main point, and that's on religion, free speech, and homosexuality.
As I posted two years ago, I absolutely support the right of social conservatives to exercise their right to free speech, regardless of whether their views about homosexuality are the same as mine. In the 2005 incident, students at South Windsor High School (my old school, BTW) were denied the right to wear T-shirts with Biblical quotes about homosexuality on the grounds that it was "hate speech".
But the business of "hate speech" is entirely different from the "hate crimes" I've discussed above. In the Connecticut case, school officials acted arbitrarily and high-handedly (and unencumbered by any legal system) to enforce an ad-hoc speech code on their students. No acts of violence or property damage were committed or threatened by the conservative students; they were simply expressing their beliefs about homosexuality, in the context of an ongoing debate over pending gay-rights legislation in the state. (That bill was later signed into law by Republican Governor Jodi Rell, making Connecticut the first state in the US to recognize civil unions through the legislative process).
Now back to hate crimes. A hate crime is, by definition, an act which is already criminal in and of itself - threat, vandalism, assault, murder - and which is legally exacerbated by the bias motive. No hate crime law is going to make it illegal to express your belief that homosexuality is wrong, immoral, or a sin - unless your idea of "expressing your belief" means doing harm to somebody else. If you don't know the difference, maybe you need to sign up for a refresher course in Civilized Debate 101.
But here's the thing. There are people out there who are unable or unwilling to draw that very distinction. Do I have to spell it out for you? Do I have to name names?
There are people out there who would like to cut your head off just because you don't believe in the same religion they do. And their views about "lifestyle choices" would make any Baptist preacher look like a free-love apostle by comparison. Regardless of what CAIR may think this legislation will do for them, hate-crime laws are there to make life harder for people who want to do violence based on prejudice - and we in the counter-jihad world ought to remember that and use it to our advantage.
Think of Ilan Halimi. Was he killed because he was a Jew? Does it matter? I think he was, and I think it does. Now think of the immigrant women in places like the Netherlands who live in fear of honor killings if they step out of line. A crime is a crime is a crime, you say? Hmmm.
All right then. This is turning into a long post, so it's time for my bottom line.
Maybe it bugs you that the same law that protects Jews and Christians from religious persecution, might also protect lesbian and gay people from homophobic hate crimes. Well, think about this. HR 1592 is about the crime, not about the victim. It's about the use of gender to justify violence and religion to justify killing gays.
H.R. 1592 isn't there to tell you what to think or what to say. It's not there to tell a preacher in a church or an imam in a mosque that he can't speak about his beliefs on homosexuality. What it does do is bring down a whole lot of firepower on people who use certain kinds of hate to justify illegal and immoral acts against other people.
If you feel that cramps your style, then maybe we'd better have a long talk.