Senate Democrats Play Hide the Ball With New Hate Crime Bill

COMMENTARY Government Regulation

Senate Democrats Play Hide the Ball With New Hate Crime Bill

Apr 16th, 2021 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Sarah Parshall Perry

Legal Fellow, Meese Center

Sarah Parshall Perry is a Legal Fellow for the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) speaks during a press conference on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act at the U.S. Capitol on April 13, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Like much of the legislation arising in the 117th Congress, the bill plays hide the ball with its real purpose: sexual identitarianism.

S.937 duplicates hate crime laws and enforcement efforts already on the books.

All the bill delivers is a dose of highly divisive sexual politics in a duplicative legislative proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has assured Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, that her COVID-19 hate crime bill, S. 937, will be a top Senate priority this month, even though not a single Republican senator will endorse it. So, what’s the GOP’s beef with the bill?

Ostensibly, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act seeks to address the rise of hate crimes and violence targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. It would require the Justice Department to assign someone to expedite the review of “COVID-19 hate crimes” and directs the attorney general and the secretary of Health and Human Services to "issue guidance describing best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID–19 pandemic.”

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Unfortunately, like much of the legislation arising in the 117th Congress, the bill plays hide the ball with its real purpose: sexual identitarianism. It describes a “COVID-19 hate crime” as a violent crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, age, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability of any person and the actual or perceived relationship between those characteristics and the spread of COVID-19.

That’s an amazingly expansive and politically divisive definition.

Hirono says she’s eager to get the bill passed in the Senate. If that’s the case, she would be well advised to strip out the needless inclusion of leftist sexual orientation and gender identity sentiment—things completely unrelated to the pandemic and its origins.

There’s an even better option, though: Withdraw the bill altogether. It’s unnecessary.

That’s because S.937 duplicates hate crime laws and enforcement efforts already on the books. At the federal level, hate crimes are covered by such laws as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing Act, the Interference with Federally Protected Rights Act, and the Conspiracy Against Rights Act. And all but three states are likewise engaged in enforcing their own state and local hate crime laws.

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Indeed, the most recent data of anti-Asian hate crimes indicate they occur predominantly in California and New York, states that already have robust hate-crime protections for victims. New York’s law, for example, includes “one of a specified set of crimes … targeting a victim because of a perception or belief about their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, or when such an act is committed as a result of that type of perception or belief.”

People are weary of COVID-19 and are seeking real relief. But they won’t find it in S.937. The public is also looking for the unity it was promised by this administration. They won’t find that in S.937, either.

Instead, all the bill delivers is a dose of highly divisive sexual politics in a duplicative legislative proposal. All it would accomplish is the appointment of yet another bureaucrat to review functions—further slowing the gears of government.

The real question isn’t, “Why don’t any Republicans support this bill?” It’s, “Why do any Democrats support it?”

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner