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Hate Crimes Agianst Homosexuals, Research Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1071

Research Paper

There are a number of groups in America subject to jokes, ridicule and abuse but perhaps no group is more ostracized than homosexuals. Many state legislatures have recognized this development and have enacted legislation which makes public display of such ridicule or the commission of a crime directed at such individuals a serious crime (Shively, 2005). These public reactions initiated to protect homosexuals have been the result of several myths that caused many uninformed individuals to develop prejudices against homosexuals that had far reaching consequences.

The first of these myths is that homosexuals deliberately choose their orientation. Such myth has been largely disproven both by scientific proof and common sense. The scientific proof has been documented in a variety of different studies while common sense should reveal to a reasonable individual that homosexuality is no more a choice than is heterosexuality (Mustanski, 2005). Being attracted to one of the opposite sex or of the same sex is not something that is consciously or deliberately chosen. It is a feeling. A feeling over which there is little control.

Although hate crime legislation has been enacted in a number of jurisdictions the debate over the propriety and need for such legislation continues (Johnson, 2003). One of the most significant issues in the debate is that there is no consensus as to whether or not hate crimes should be considered a separate class of crime and there is also no agreement on how such crimes should be treated. The result of this disagreement is that some hate crime statutes have been ruled by the courts as being too broad or vague but there has been universal agreement among the state courts that have considered the Constitutionality of the penalty enhancement provisions of the hate crime laws have upheld bias as a rationale for harsher punishments. The U.S. Supreme Court has come down on the same side of this issue by ruling that hate crime enhancement penalties are a legitimate attempt by the states to redress a great social harm (Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 1993). Regardless, however, how the nation’s courts interpret or apply hate crime laws the debate regarding their need and application is likely to continue.

One well publicized case occurring on the campus of Rutgers University in New Jersey presents a classic example of why hate crime legislation is necessary. At Rutgers, a young student jumped from the George Washington Bridge in response to an incident in which the young man’s roommate secretly taped him engaged in a homosexual encounter and then posted the secret taping on the Internet (Wiener-Bronner, 2011). The embarrassment proved to be too much for the young Rutgers’ student and he leapt to his death. The State of New Jersey unfortunately did not have sex crime statutes in force to govern the situation. Instead, the roommate and his girlfriend were charged under related statutes.

Although legislation creating hate crime laws is steadily increasing, the issue of homosexual equality remains largely an unresolved and highly debated issue. Despite the concentrated efforts of gay and lesbian activists and the apparent broadening of public support for protecting the civil rights of homosexuals the support for recognizing the legal status of homosexuals in the areas of marriage and adoption remain mixed. To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has not reviewed any substantive case where the equal protection clause has been applied to homosexual rights and the Court has yet to afford homosexuality heightened scrutiny or applied federal antidiscrimination laws to cases involving sexual orientation.

Even though support from the Courts has been minimal, the supporters of homosexual rights continue to strive for equality in terms of the right to marry and to adopt children. Such supporters seek the freedom to live life with the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals enjoy and to be accepted in society as equals. It must be remembered, however, that it has only been recently that state laws criminalizing consensual sodomy have been declared unlawful so it might be several more years before society is open to the idea that homosexuals should be afforded equal status and legal protection in terms of discrimination, housing, and relationship status. Further, despite survey data that consistently indicates that the majority of Americans support the homosexual lifestyle similar surveys indicate that homosexuals remain the objects of a great deal of hate inspired violence (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

The hatred surrounding the issue of homosexuality knows no limits as is evidenced by the suicidal death of a young 14 year old Amherst, New York boy (Praetorius, 2011). This young man had, according to his parents, spent a large portion of his life being subject to the taunts of his peers. From the fifth grade until his unfortunate death, this young man suffered from constant bullying because he was perceived as being gay and this experience eventually took its toll.

Incidents such as those mentioned herein are an unfortunate result of society’s attitude toward homosexuality but there is also clear evidence that society’s attitudes are changing. The general acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is gaining support and more and more jurisdictions are beginning to consider and actually enact legislation granting homosexuals greater civil rights. Social change is a slow and arduous process. It does not occur overnight and when such change involves an issue as emotional as homosexuality it takes much longer but for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals change is occurring and it is picking up steam. Within a few short years, the rights of homosexuals to marry, adopt, and otherwise enjoy a life undistinguished by discrimination and prejudice may be a reality. All present indications are that this will soon happen and that the need for hate crimes may be a thing of the past.

References

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Hate Crimes. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from The FBI: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/civilrights/hate_crimes

Johnson, S. D. (2003). Attitudes toward hate crime laws. Journal of Criminal Justice , 227-235.

Mustanski, B. S. (2005). A genomewide scan of male sexual orientation. Biomedical and Life Sciences , 272-278.

Praetorius, D. (2011, September 22). Jamey Rodemeyer, 14-Year-Old Boy, Commits Suicide After Gay Bullying, Parents Carry on Message. Retrieved February 10, 2012, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/jamey-rodemeyer-suicide-gay-bullying_n_972023.html?

Shively, M. (2005). Study of Literature and Legislation on Hate Crime in America. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice.

Wiener-Bronner, D. (2011, May 25). Rutgers Student Believed To Have Committed Suicide After Classmates Allegedly Recorded Him In Gay Sexual Encounter. Retrieved February 11, 2012, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/29/dharun-revi-molly-wei-charged_n_743539.html?

Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (U.S. Supreme Court 1993).

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