Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is not only against the Matthew Sheppard Act, but last night on Fox News he argued that hate crimes legislation creates “sacred cows” that force an attacker to their attention to other members of the general public. He warned that hate crimes laws, “put the victimizer’s focus on someone else.” Does this mean that it is more acceptable for a black, gay, or disabled person to be attacked?
Here is the video courtesy of Think Progress:
King tried to rationalize his opposition as being against special treatment, “If they’re one of God’s children let’s protect them equally and when you go down the path of special protected status, then you end up with the sacred cows walking around the street that have another extra shield around them that actually would put the victimizer’s focus on someone else. I think it’s unequal protection of the law that results from it.”
The argument that King made is walking a fine line towards endorsing discrimination. Arguing that hate crimes protection causes crime to increase against non-protected persons is fear mongering. King is basically saying that a person who commits hate crime will make a rational decision, and ignore their hatred of a person based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, because of hate crimes laws. There is absolutely no evidence, nor has there ever been a documented case where an attacker switched their target to white people, because of the fear of additional punishment.
A much more valid legal argument is that murder is murder. Is it really necessary to attach additional punishment for something that is already a crime? King was on this path until he went off the rails with his sacred cow argument. It is a fair question to ask if hate crimes legislation is most effective as political symbolism, but what King did was draw a false conclusion that hate crimes legislation leads to more crimes against whites. He used a scare tactic that has no basis in fact.