Are Hate Crime Laws Necessary?

Monday, March 19, 2012

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.


Hayley Gorenberg and James Jacobs

Produced by:

Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [4]


Ms Gorenberg highlights the main problem with "hate" crime laws when she describes them as "evenhanded" when targeting someone based on identity. That is the exact problem. The law should be evenhanded for all. When special categories of victim are singled out we lose that. We cannot create a special category for every type of hate that exists, but all victims deserve equal justice.

Mar. 19 2012 03:20 PM

I thought that Ms. Gorenberg was never challenged to actually respond to Mr. Jacob's comments. She spoke first and last, only furthering our understanding of her cause not of the incident and it's context. That's not her fault. We all have our opinions. The reason such a person is engaged on public radio is to place her opinions in context. Not haveing her do so seemed like a poor editorial decision.

I also heard her say that the verdict was "good" because it furthered the discussion on the GLBT/hate crimes issue. Using that logic, was it "good" that this incident happened in the first place. Should MORE incidents of this type occur to further an adgenda? Her logic was never challenged and I find this slope slippery and frightening.

Mar. 19 2012 10:52 AM
Caesar DeChicchis from Pittsburgh

As an openly gay man I find this verdict to be an overreaction.

Who would kill themselves because of a video of them kissing? Clearly the victim had some other issues going on.

The defendants actions are worthy of disciplinary action but not 10 years in prison.

Mar. 19 2012 09:58 AM
Keiran Bellis from Preston, UK

This debate surely depends on whether you sign up to notion that hate crimes hurt more and the effect is (or can be) far more wide reaching than the base offence. Firstly a hate crime attacks something that is either innate or instrumental to you; they are in essence attacking not just you but a part of you, whereas the typical random attack does not have the same focus on the victim. Also hate crimes potentially have a wider effect than the base offence. Crimes affect the victims and their family’s etc. but a hate crime will likely affect all these people and the group who share the protected characteristic (faith group, LGBT group etc.).

Mar. 19 2012 09:07 AM

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