To the editor:

The Tuesday, Oct. 20 edition of the Enterprise carried a news story titled, “This is not acceptable here.” Inside this story was a report about Rep. Sandy Newsome (R-Cody) teaming up with Sara Burlingame (D-Laramie) to craft a “hate crimes bill.”

Similar legislation to this has been attempted in Wyoming for years but has always been rejected for good reason. It is very dangerous to attempt to enact laws that criminalize people’s thoughts and speech. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, to include speech that is unmannerly and even downright rude. While we can deplore rudeness, we should not criminalize it. Presuming to read another’s thoughts so as to attribute motives to criminal acts is chilling.

Voting for our legislators once every two years is a minimal response to our civic duty as citizens. We need to be observant of what is being done down in Cheyenne during the legislative session. Rep. Newsome is quoted as saying: “This isn’t ‘1984’ George Orwell.” Except that it is – or could be under the proposed law.

Vigilant voters should be watching for the introduction of this bill, be sure to read it, and then contact legislators to ask them to vote against it. The wording of the bill is irrelevant – all “hate crimes bills” are unnecessary and unconstitutional. Statutes already in place address criminal behavior. The purpose of such bills is to bully the citizenry into group-think. Orwellian, indeed.

(s) sheila leach

Cody

(21) comments

GoPokes

Hello fellow Codyites,

This post is a bit misinformed so I was hoping I could clarify some of the misconceptions about what a hate crime bill actually is. The U.S Department of Justice defines hate crime laws as “a specific statute that criminalizes acts motivated by the victim’s identifying with a particular group or groups. Often these groups include race, religion, national origin, and disability.” Hate crime laws aren't about policing thought or free speech. This law would not make it illegal to have bigoted thoughts or say bigoted things, it would provide harsher sentencing for individuals who commit crimes because of these beliefs. In the 1993 case Wisconsin vs. Mitchell, the supreme court decided that harsher sentences for clearly bias-motivated crimes were not an infringement on first amendment rights. Free speech is protected by the constitution, a hate crime bill would not change that (it’s also not the intent of the bill to change that).

There must be clear evidence for these cases to be prosecuted.The impact of hate crimes in a community is significantly different from other crimes. Hate crimes are as awful as other crimes to the victims, but also carry the unwelcoming weight of bigotry to the victim and the victim’s community that share the identity trait that was attacked.

A few other misbeliefs: This isn’t liberal huey, 47 of the 50 states have hate crime bills in place. The majority of republican leaning states have thought it was a good idea. Wyomingites across the state support this. Many folks who have been in Wyoming an awfully long time think this is a good idea.

Have a nice day y’all

Freecitizen

" Hate crime laws aren't about policing thought or free speech". No, you're right, they are just about punishing someone who has committed a crime, more severely than another based on what they think or say. No amount of Smiley Face Prose can change that fact. I am not a someone who is in a "Protected Class". I can be physically and verbally assaulted or otherwise and the perpetrator will be punished for just the physical assault unless it's in NYC, where they will be simply released. Now, on the other hand, if I go and do the same thing to the person who assaulted me and they are of a "Protected Class" and I take out my grievance out physically and verbally, then Heaven help me. I just committed a hate crime because I said some unkind things while extracting retribution. That is punishing thought, pure and simple no matter how you dress it up. Finally, you're right, it is not an infringement of free speach...it is an unequal application of the law (and punishment)...it means that some are "more equal" than others...sound familiar?

Oh, and have a nice day, too.

GoPokes

Hello freecitizen,

I just want to clarify a few things because there seems to be a little bit of confusion, hope I can help! The Supreme Court in 1993 confirmed that hate crime laws do not violate our protections of free speech.The only way somebody’s thoughts could be used as evidence is if they produced themselves in some outward example of hatred. Hate speech during a bias motivated crime is used as evidence, but hate speech is protected under the first amendment. Thoughts and freedom of speech are protected to everyone equally.

Hate crime laws actually do not protect one group of people more than another. The goal of this law is that if a hate crime happened to you, or anyone in Wyoming they would be protected equally. A hate crime is a crime committed against somebody because of their identity, this doesn’t exclude certain sexualities, races, genders, etc. A cis-gendered, straight, white, christian man could be the victim of a hate crime for any of those identities. In your second example, if you beat somebody up while using hateful language/slurs against a part of their identity I certainly hope it would be investigated as a hate crime. Unkind things in general are different from language that might be used as evidence that a hate crime occured.

If you have more questions about what hate crime or hate crimes laws are there are some great resources online. The United States Department of Justice website is clear and helpful, as well as the Anti Defamation League, Southern Poverty Law Center, and resources.

Hope that helps & have a nice day!

Freecitizen

Hate crime laws re-criminalize what was already criminal conduct. Some time ago, TIME magazine said "Hate crime laws are all about expressive politics and not at all necessary for effective and fair law enforcement." They went on to state that these laws create a heirarchy of victims (unequal application of law) and create a class of perpetrator that will be punished more severely, based on their bias and motive. THAT is punishing THOUGHT. Apparently TIME magazine is just another nutty far-right rag that isn't woke enough. Who'd-a thunk.

Bluedot

Ms. Leach is, sadly, misinformed. Wyoming is one only a few states without a hate crimes law. Such laws do not inhibit free speech. They protect people against acts of intimidation and violence that are directed at people who do not share the same beliefs as the attacker. When John F. Kennedy ran for president, there were religious bigots who attacked him for his Catholic faith. With legislation that protects people from such attacks, we have a more fair and level playing field for all.

bayern53

Sheila has presented a cogent and thoughtful case for an unnecessary law. A reasonable person observing the political and sociological landscape of this year will see how distorted the definition of “racist”, “homophobic”, “privileged”, etc. has become. The polarization and politicalization of reasonable discourse/dialog has devolved into ANY disagreement with the prevailing rabid political correctness being perceived as “hate” or an example of incredible stupidity on the part of anybody who disagrees with the need to legislate/ criminalize a thought or opinion not consistent with the prevailing mainstream media and mob mentality of current identity politics as espoused by one of the major political parties/candidates. There are perfectly functional and appropriate laws on the books to address threats, intimidation and trespassing. A “feel good” law, wielding a cudgel of political correctness has no place in Wyoming. Our state’s history (Equality State) and philosophy of “live and let live” has served us well. As a side note, those folks that keep bringing up the Matt Shepard case are advised to check out investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez’s (a gay man) book “The Book of Matt”. The facts presented will negate Mr. Shepard’s status as a “gay martyr” and relieve Wyoming citizens of the stigma associated with his murder. A level playing field already exists; legally and philosophically, the need to legislate thought & speech is intrusive overreach.

Vincent Vanata

Very well said. Unfortunately, we see such efforts "after" the Primary Election.

eltee

I could not agree more. All the celebration over the confirmation of Justice Barrett is an expression of our being a country of laws...NOT FEELINGS. It's certainly OK is someone believes a particular crime doesn't have a severe enough punishment...that can be amended legislatively, but our government has NO BUSINESS attempting to read the meaning of someone's comments as they violate a law into some extra-legal bump in criminal charges or punishment.

P Demoney

We can't even get people to believe a crime was committed. They cling to conspiracies, rogue authors, or the political party. Of course we need a hate crime law.

Jim Jones

P Demoney, Perhaps we will believe a crime was committed after someone gets arrested and convicted. As of now, there is no signed complaint. We don't need a hate crime law because P Demoney believes a crime has been committed even though the so called victims refuse to sign a complaint.

Knappen

Seems like a necessary step since folks won't police themselves when it comes to hate and race bias haters gonna hate:(

It's easy to say it's not necessary when you are on the offensive end of discrimination.

Harald Hardrada

Spot on, Sheila, thank you for your letter! I agree, A very dangerous and slippery slope to criminalize thoughts and speech. I want to include naught from a friend:

Free speech is a very classically liberal idea. Everyone is free to speak as they wish, so long as they cause no injury to another. Likewise, the listeners are free to criticize, or agree, or completely ignore—so long as they do not injure or threaten injury against another.

This civility—the duty not to injure one another—is one of the bedrock principles of a free society. Full stop.

“My feelings are hurt,” is not an injury. Nor is, “You disagree with me.” Nor is, “You keep saying things that I don’t like.” There is very high bar for speech to be considered an injury.

Someone speaking does not give you the moral authority to escalate their disagreement of ideas to injurious, threatening, and violent behavior.

There is a certain festering, dangerous mentality which interprets these differences of opinion on deeply held views as a Declaration of War. Some people feel so offended that they will lie, and fabricate, and screech, and cry, and threaten violence and death—and justify their objectively anti-social behavior without any sense of shame or regret.

People have tolerated that for too long, and hopefully we’re seeing a swing on that.

silentmajority

RINO Republicans teaming up with Democrats to erode our rights. I came here from an extremely Democrat ruled state in order to get away from garbage like this. I hope the residents of Wyoming see this for what it is and vote against such actions. I knew Newsome was a RINO, that's why I voted against her and for her primary challenger. Wake up Wyoming, what has happened in other states is now here at your doorstep. I came here because I love Wyoming the way it is. I don't want to see it go the way of Illinois, God forbid.

Jack Dittmer

Have you considered that it is moving that way because you moved here?

yellowcat

Better yet, maybe we should all be just a bit nicer and mind our own doorsteps.

mwinslow

“ The wording of the bill is irrelevant ” may be the most Orwellian thing I’ve read in a while . . . .

Siltbath Gulley

Looks like Sandy Newsome would like to deputize the "Thought Police". Hey Sandy what color am I thinking right now?

Mike J

Amen. Well said.

XMonkey

Second that. And who are the self-righteous ones who will decide who and what is "hating," and who or what is not?

Wyoming resident

Lol

Freecitizen

Who will decide what is "hate" and what is not? It will be those who constantly tell you that they are more tolerant than you, that's who.

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