It didn’t work to call Matthew Shepard’s murder “a hoax,” so opponents of federal hate-crimes legislation are trying a new tactic: claiming the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to federal anti-bias laws, would protect pedophilia and a host of other deviancies, including necrophilia, incest and urophilia (don’t ask).
Hogwash, says the Pulitzer-prize winning PolitiFact.com site, a project of the St. Petersburg Times. The site awarded the claim its special “Pants on Fire” designation, reserved for lies so outrageous there isn’t a shred of truth to be found.
The claim hate-crime laws will protect pedophiles — most notably raised by U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, during debate on the measure in Congress — was resurrected last week by Focus on the Family honcho James Dobson in a radio broadcast that included King and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican.
Speaking against the federal hate-crimes bill last month, Gohmert made the intriguing argument that fending off a sexual assault could incur federal charges.
“If a mother hears that their child has been raped and she slaps the assailant with her purse, she is now gone after as a hate criminal because this is a protected class,” Gohmert opined in debate on the bill, which passed the House 249-175 and is now in the Senate.
Somehow believing the modern urban woman’s weapon of choice is the purse, Gohmert goes on:
I have female friends who have told me over the years that some guy flashed them and their immediate reaction was to hit them with the purse. Well, now, he’s committed a misdemeanor. She has committed a federal hate crime because the exhibitionism is protected under sexual orientation.
Not one to leave daft legal theories to his guests, Dobson frets over the perverts who could be protected by the bill.
“In its broad definition, [sexual orientation] could mean anything, including any of the 30 forms of sexual deviancy which are listed by the American Psychiatric Association,” Dobson says, and then goes on to squeamishly enumerate some of the forms.
(Is Dobson getting soft in his retirement? Not usually one to pull his punches, the good doctor falls short of invoking “all 547 forms of sexual deviancy or ‘paraphilias’ listed by the American Psychiatric Association” scarily touted by serious opponents to the bill.)
Media Matters posted this clip of Dobson’s warning:
“It seemingly protects every kind of perversion,” Dobson says. Well, only if you believe words have no meaning.
Let’s check back in with PolitiFact.com on the fears Dobson expressed:
The opponents’ arguments display a fundamental misunderstanding of the words “sexual orientation,” said Arthur Leonard, a professor of law at New York Law School and an expert in gay rights and discrimination based on sexual orientation. …
Leonard believes it is an attempt by legislators to appeal to their constituents’ “yahoo mentality.”
“Yahoo mentality”? That’s harsh. But there’s more:
“There are no cases, zero, at the federal or state level that even remotely resemble what Rep. King and other opponents have talked about,” [Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League] said. “It’s make-believe.”
“It’s laughable,” said Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University and co-chair of the Center on Violence and Conflict. “Why should it happen at the federal level when it hasn’t happened at the state level. They are setting up a straw man…It’s a convenient way of arousing public fear about something that is quite benign.”
Make-believe? Laughable? But what about slapping a perp with a purse? Isn’t there any foundation for the paraphilia = sexual orientation scare tactics?
So we’ve found nothing to support the opponents’ claims that pedophiles would be protected by the hate crimes bill. The experience of 31 states that have similar laws, the FBI’s definition of sexual orientation and the opinions of legal experts have persuaded us not only that the opponents are wrong, but that their arguments are preposterous. We find King’s claim to be Pants on Fire.