Hate-Crime Envy

Don't ever parody the therapeutic welfare state. You'll just give it ideas! 

Parody Become Law
By Hans Bader
April 22, 2010

Florida is now poised to join Maryland and Maine in treating crimes targeting the homeless as “hate crimes,” with increased penalties of up to five years for assaults on a homeless person.

The idea started out in Maryland as a parody.  The legislation’s author, a socially-conservative state senator, was by his own admission “motivated by cynicism: He was offended by legislation adding sexual orientation to the list of protected categories, which includes race, religion and national origin.”  So to parody it, he proposed adding all sorts of groups like the homeless to the protected list.

But his idea unexpectedly took off, as anti-poverty groups and homeless advocates backed his legislation to add the homeless to the state’s hate crimes law.  And he came to view it as a good idea, based on what you might call “hate crimes envy”: wasn’t it only fair to add the homeless if gay people were already included, especially since homeless people were allegedly more “vulnerable,” more deserving, and had less political “clout?”   (There is a related phenomenon called “censorship envy” that results in foreign hate speech laws getting broader and broader over time, as each minority group demands its own protection against political blasphemy.)