My purpose in this article is to address issues that arise with the emergence of “hate crime” law as a response to violence against historically subordinated groups, with particular reference to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (henceforth “GLBT”), and otherwise queer citizens. The specific jurisdictional context of my reflection is the USA but the issues I raise have significance beyond that context. Increasingly in recent years hate crime legislation has been adopted or proposed in the US as well as other jurisdictions as a response to bigotry and violence directed against minority groups in multi-cultural societies. In 2006 in the UK, proposals to outlaw “incitement to religious hatred” were hotly debated. In 2008 demands are being made to extend the ‘incitement laws’ to include incitement to homophobic hatred. In 2007 in the US the Senate and House of Representatives in Washington DC passed an Act, which some described as the Matthew Shepard Act, to promote and enhance the use of the criminal law against perpetrators of crimes motivated by hatred based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Ultimately the Act failed to become law. The debates in the UK and US provide the backdrop against which I want to examine the arguments for and against hate crime legislation, both generally and with specific application to queer citizens. This require us to think again about the relation of queer citizens to the state, the reach of political equality and human rights, and the aims and limits of the criminal law and system of “criminal justice”.
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As a result of anomalies in judicial interpretation, laws against racial hatred include white, blacks, Asians, Jews and Sikhs, but not Muslims as a class. The question of what classes are to be protected against bias crime is frequently a point of contention in differing legal and political contexts.
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I am grateful to those who invited me and to those who participated in discussion on these occasions. Special thanks to Les Moran, Jamie Mayerfeld, Michelle Stewart, and Garrath Williams, who provided detailed responses to previous drafts.
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Kaplan, M.B. Hate Crime and the Privatization of Political Responsibility: Protecting Queer Citizens in the United States?. Liverpool Law Rev 29, 37–50 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10991-008-9031-z
- Queer citizenship
- Hate crime
- Homophobic violence