Rep. Forbes Gets It Precisely Backwards

It would be nice to think that members of Congress like Rep. Randy Forbes actually understand what the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act does instead of just reflexively voting against it and then making asinine claims such as this:

Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) is a former ranking member of the Judiciary Crime Subcommittee, and founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. He recently took to the House floor and provided a powerful example of how the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act” does not ensure equality under the law.

Congressman Forbes compared the protection Miss California Carrie Prejean would receive under the bill to the special protection homosexual blogger and Miss USA judge Perez Hilton would have been afforded.
“Had [Hilton] done what he said he would do and stormed that stage and pulled that tiara off [Prejean’s] head and [inflicted] bodily harm when he did it, there would not have been one ounce of protection under this piece of legislation for that young girl,” Forbes stated.
“But after he did it, if she had in response made a statement back about the very sexual orientation that had led him to his hatred and dislike for her, and if she had responded by slapping him or any physical injury, she would have had the potential of a ten-year federal piece of legislation coming against her.”

Forbes has this exactly backwards.

Under the current hates crimes law, violent crimes targeting someone because of their real or perceived religion are already covered and carry enhanced penalties, whereas violent crimes targeting real or perceived “sexual orientation” are not – hence the need for the new hate crimes legislation:   

The LLEHCPA adds sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to existing federal law conferring authority on the federal government to investigate and prosecute violent crimes.  This authority already exists for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion and national origin.

Aside from the fact that it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever get charged with a hate crime for pulling a tiara of someone’s head or slapping them, under a worst case scenario imagined by Forbes resulting in a violent showdown between figures like Hilton and Prejean, it is Prejean who would be protected by hate crimes legislation.

Provided it could be established that she was attacked because of her Christian faith, her attacker could be charged with a hate crime whereas someone attacking Hilton would not because, as it stands now, real or perceived sexual orientation is not protected by federal law.  As such, Prejean could theoretically violently attack Hilton solely because of his sexual orientation and she would not be charged with a hate crime.  

The whole point of the current hate crimes legislation is to add sexual orientation to the list of protections, along with things like race and religion, because such protections currently do not exist.  

In short, if anyone in Forbes’ hypothetical battle is granted “special protection,” it is Prejean, not Hilton. Passage of the current hate crimes legislation merely levels the field.

Like I said, it would be nice if members of Congress actually tried to understand the legislation on which they vote – but apparently, when it comes to Forbes, that is just too much to ask.