I try not to get involved in state legislative issues. I agree with the old axiom that watching laws being made is like watching sausages being made: There’s a foul smell, a lot of squealing, and the floor is covered in blood when it’s over.
But recently I’ve been observing the controversy over the hate crimes bill, which very nearly became a law this year. At first I thought it was a hat crimes bill, and I was grateful that at long last, the guys in their 20s who wear hats all the time would be prosecuted for being the dorks they are.
Then I put my eyedrops in, realized it was about hate crimes, and I became even MORE interested. The hate crimes bill would have upgraded a crime’s classification one notch if the crime was motivated by prejudice toward a group. For example, a second-degree felony would become a first-degree felony if you committed it because you don’t like octogenarians and the victim was 85.
The bill defined “groups” as being distinguished by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Therefore, beating someone up because he’s Canadian is still just a regular ol’ crime. If it’s because he’s a GAY Canadian, then it’s a hate crime.
I don’t agree with the hate crimes bill. I don’t believe a distinction should be made between shooting a guy because he made unflattering remarks about your girlfriend and shooting a guy because he’s a Quaker. In either case, you’ve shot someone without just cause. In either case, you should go to jail — unless shooting a Quaker is not against the law, in which case I shall have to revise this paragraph altogether.
There are further complications. What if someone belonging to a group I have a pre-existing dislike for — we’ll say Quakers, for argument’s sake — does something that gives me legitimate cause to act out against him? Like he kills my dog, or answers his cellphone during a movie, or something. I will have a devil of a time proving in court that my dislike of Quakers — which, I should stress, is only hypothetical — was irrelevant in this instance.
Now, here’s where it gets sticky. The Utah Eagle Forum, a right-wing coalition of busybodies and fanatics, was also opposed to the hate crimes bill. That I should ever agree with this insane cadre of harridans about ANYTHING makes me want to hide under a pile of blankets.
Fortunately, I still have something to disagree with them about, and that’s the way their leader, Gayle Ruzicka, behaved in her opposition to the bill. Gayle and her coven opposed the bill because they felt it gave protected legal status to gays and lesbians, when of course the proper thing to do with gays and lesbians, according to the Eagle Forum, is to set fire to them and laugh while they burn.
When the bill first came up four years ago, Ruzicka said Utah law should not protect “illegal and immoral” behavior such as homosexuality. And clearly, by saying you are not supposed to beat people up because of their lifestyle, you are encouraging that lifestyle. If we promise we’re not going to pummel druids wantonly in the streets, then there’s going to be an increase in people converting to druidism.
Furthermore, Gayle is one of those people who believe that anything they don’t like is also disliked officially by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So since Gayle opposed the bill, she assumed the LDS Church did, too, even though a church spokesman had specifically stated the church did NOT oppose the bill, nor was it in favor of the bill, but instead was neutral on the bill. Gayle said the church was merely downplaying its support of the bill so as not to unduly influence the voting, because for sure the LDS Church HATES when it influences the voting.
Immediately, the church responded and said, even more clearly than before, using small words and flow charts, that Gayle was wrong when she said this, and that the LDS Church was not, in fact against the bill, and that Gayle should stop trying to tell people what the LDS Church “really” thinks or else the LDS Church would kick her in the throat. (The last part was implied.)
Unlike the Eagle Forum, my opposition to the bill was because I didn’t feel it was necessary, not because I had paranoid ideas about it actually doing harm. If it had passed, I would have been OK. I didn’t actively protest against it. Not like movie-watching cellphone-answerers, whom I will campaign against until my dying breath, regardless of their race, creed or color.
Two columns in a row discussing minority groups! And coming from two opposite political viewpoints, too. Last week's lined up with the liberals, and this one is more in the conservative department. Both are my honest opinions, too, which means I don't know what the heck I am, politically. Maybe that's why I tend to just stay out of it.