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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010--Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2010--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - October 22, 2009)

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Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I rise in opposition to the hate crimes provision inserted in the Defense authorization conference report, first, of course, because hate crime legislation has nothing to do with the Defense Department or with national security. Hate crimes actually have nothing to do with crimes or with hate. It is very cynical that this bill that funds our soldiers, who are fighting for our Constitution and our country, actually undermines the very principles they are fighting for.

There are many practical problems with hate crimes legislation. The broad language will unnecessarily overextend Federal law enforcement personnel. It will undermine the effectiveness and confidence of local law enforcement. It will create conditions for arbitrary and politicized prosecutions of certain cases.

I wish to focus on the basic, fundamental problems with any Federal hate crimes legislation. The rule of law requires opposition to this principle or this idea that we treat crimes differently. Let me first state the obvious. Hate crimes are wrong. That is why they are already illegal. That is why they are already prosecuted. That is why the rights of victims are defended by law enforcement authorities at every level of government.

Strictly as a matter of justice, the hate crimes provision in this report is offensive. It suggests that violence committed against certain kinds of victims is worse, more in need of Federal intervention and swift justice. I am sure most parents of a minority, a homosexual or female victim would appreciate the extra concern, but the other side of the coin is the implication that these crimes committed against a nonspecial person should have less punishment. Where does that leave the vast majority of victims' families who, because of the whims of political correctness, are not entitled under this legislation to special status and attention? How can a victim's perceived status or the perpetrator's perceived opinions possibly determine the severity of a crime?

The 14th amendment explicitly guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law. But these hate crime provisions create a special class of victims whose protection of the law will be, in Orwell's phrase, more equal than others. If some are more equal than others, some must be less equal. It is, then, inevitable that this hate crimes provision will create the very problem it purports to solve.

This provision will also move our Nation a dangerous step closer to another Orwellian concept: thought crimes. It would criminalize certain ideas, and those ideas' involvement in a crime will make the crime more deserving of prosecution. The problem, of course, is that politicians are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal and which are not. Canadians right now live under this kind of regime where so-called human rights commissions, operating outside the normal legal process, prosecute citizens for espousing opinions the commissioners disagree with. Today in the United States only actions are crimes. If we pass this conference report, opinions will become crimes. What is to stop us from following the lead of the European countries and American college campuses where certain speech is criminalized? Can priests, pastors, and rabbis be sure their preaching will not be prosecuted, if it says certain things are right and wrong? Again, in Canada, for instance, Pastor Stephen Boissoin was so prosecuted by Alberta's Human Rights Commission for publishing letters critical of homosexuality. Or will this provision serve as a warning to people not to speak out too loudly about their religious views, lest Federal agents come knocking at their door? What about the unintended consequences such as pedophiles and sex offenders claiming protected status under this provision as being disabled? There is no such thing as a criminal thought, only criminal acts. Once we endorse the concept of thought crime, where will we draw the line? More importantly, who will draw that line?

Under existing law, if my own children were attacked in a violent crime, justice would demand that their attackers be pursued no more or less than the attackers of any other children. We all say we want a color-blind society, but we cannot have a color-blind society if we continue to write color-conscious laws. Our culture cannot expect to treat people equally if the law--if our ruling class--treats citizens not according to the content of their character but according to their race, sex, ethnic identity, or gender identity.

I urge my colleagues to consider the implications of what we are doing, the raw cynicism of attaching this type of controversial legislation to a bill that funds the defense of the country. What type of legislative extortion will they consider next? I have the choice here to vote for hate crimes legislation that I believe would undermine the very justice system of the country or to vote against the defense of my country. I don't think we could be more cynical.

I urge colleagues to oppose this conference report unless and until the principle of equal justice is upheld and the report's hate crimes provisions are removed.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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