As the webcam-spying trial of Rutgers student Dharun Ravi comes to an end, some people have questioned whether hate crime laws are necessary at all. On the one hand, they dole out harsher punishments for crimes motivated by discrimination and bigotry. On the other, is the same crime worse depending on the identity of the victim? In the Rutgers case, the jury must decide if Ravi's actions constituted a hate crime or just a tasteless prank.
James B. Jacobs is Warren E. Burger professor of law at New York University School of Law and a co-author of "Hate Crime: Criminal Law and Identity Politics." Hayley Gorenberg is the deputy legal director of Lambda Legal, a civil rights group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.