“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — Declaration of Independence
It is called identity politics and it results in some strange behavior by otherwise rational and principled individuals. In the realm of identity politics it matters not so much that each of us is unique in our own right, the only thing that matters is the groups to which we are members: gender, race, ethnic heritage, religion, etc., etc.
This leads to discrimination. Discrimination cuts both ways. In some cases a group is deemed less equal than others, while in others — in Animal Farm-fashion — some are more equal than others. Both are large under the natural law concept embodied in the Declaration.
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed the “Stolen Valor Act of 2013” by 390-3. The bill’s chief sponsor was Nevada’s Joe Heck, a Republican, but it had 127 co-sponsors. Democrats Dina Titus and Steven Horsford voted for the bill. Republican Mark Amodei did not vote.
The Supreme Court last year struck down the original “Stolen Valor Act,” which made it a crime for a person to have claimed to have won military honors or metals that he did not, as an unconstitutional restraint of free speech.
Justice Anthony Kennedy opined in U.S. v. Alvarez:
“The First Amendment itself ensures the right to respond to speech we do not like, and for good reason. Freedom of speech and thought flows not from the beneficence of the state but from the inalienable rights of the person. And suppression of speech by the government can make exposure of falsity more difficult, not less so. Society has the right and civic duty to engage in open, dynamic, rational discourse. These ends are not well served when the government seeks to orchestrate public discussion through content-based mandates.”
So, the bill has been altered to make it a crime to claim such unearned metals in obtaining anything of value, such as government benefits, a job reserved for a veteran or a contract. Violators could be fined and/or imprisoned.
A week ago the Nevada Assembly passed a bill that had already passed the state Senate making it a “hate crime,” subject to enhanced punishment, to commit a crime due to a person’s “gender identity or expression.” Current law already allows enhanced penalties for crimes committed because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and physical or mental disability. The governor has said he would sign it.
What we have in both cases is discrimination due to identity — disparate treatment under the law, even though the 14th Amendment says no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
To falsely obtain financial benefit is already a fraud. To up the ante because of a person “steals valor” denies equal protection of the laws. Besides, no one can steal valor. It is earned and is hardly tarnished or diminished because some crackpot prances around wearing metals he did not earn.
Likewise, enhancing penalties for favored groups — whether they were once held in disfavor or not — is a denial of equal protection of the laws. And what judge or jury can read a person’s mind and determine whether he stole another’s money because he wanted the money or because he disliked someone due to race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability or gender identity or expression.
After a crime has been committed, at that point, what difference does it make whether the victim was a member of some favored group? Is crime against a person excluded from these groups somehow less heinous, less important, less deserving of punishment?
Each of us is a minority of one.