Newspaper column: Under ‘equal protection of the laws’ no one is more equal than others

The Nevada Legislature has passed a bill making it a “hate crime” — subject to enhanced punishment of up to 20 years in prison — to commit a crime motivated by a victim’s “gender identity or expression,” commonly referred to in the vernacular as transgender. It passed the Senate with only a single nay vote and the Assembly with only 11 nays. Gov. Brian Sandoval promptly signed it into law.

It adds to current “hate crime” laws, which already allow enhanced penalties for crimes committed because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and physical or mental disability.

This is clearly disparate treatment under the law, and defies the 14th Amendment, which says no state may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” as I point out in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason.

When a crime has been committed, what difference does it make whether the victim is a member of some favored group? Is a crime against a person excluded from these groups somehow less heinous, less important, less deserving of punishment?

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the singling out of special groups for special enforcement continued.

The House of Representatives passed the “Stolen Valor Act of 2013” by 390-3. The bill’s chief sponsor was Nevada’s Republican Rep. Joe Heck, but it had 127 co-sponsors. Democrats Dina Titus and Steven Horsford voted for the bill. Republican Mark Amodei did not vote.

It was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent.

The bill makes it a federal crime to lie about receiving a military decoration or medal in order to profit or benefit financially, such as government benefits, a job reserved for a veteran or a contract. Violators could be fined and/or imprisoned.

The Supreme Court this past year struck down the original “Stolen Valor Act” — which made it a crime for a person merely to claim to have won military honors he did not — as an unconstitutional restraint of free speech.

This original “Stolen Valor Act” was then changed to criminalize obtaining financial gain via such false claims, enhancing the penalty for what is already a crime.

Depictions of Lady Justice, since the 15th century, have shown her blindfolded, so she may objectively mete out justice without regard to station in life, group identity, wealth, poverty, power, weakness or prior victimization.

Read the full column at the Ely or Elko sites.

11 comments on “Newspaper column: Under ‘equal protection of the laws’ no one is more equal than others

  1. nyp10025 says:

    Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993) (Rhenquist, J.)

  2. That rejected a First Amendment argument only.

  3. Oops, it also addressed the 14th. I looked at it before writing the column but it says:

    Mitchell also challenged the statute on Fourteenth Amendment equal protection and vagueness grounds. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that Mitchell waived his equal protection claim and rejected his vagueness challenge outright. 163 Wis. 2d 652, 473 N. W. 2d 1 (1991). The Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to address both claims. 169 Wis. 2d 153, 158, n. 2, 485 N. W. 2d 807, 809, n. 2 (1992). Mitchell renews his Fourteenth Amendment claims in this Court. But since they were not developed below and plainly fall outside of the question on which we granted certiorari, we do not reach them either.


    Petitioner Apprendi fired several shots into the home of an African-American family and made a statement–which he later retracted–that he did not want the family in his neighborhood because of their race. He was charged under New Jersey law with, inter alia, second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, which carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years. The count did not refer to the State’s hate crime statute, which provides for an enhanced sentence if a trial judge finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant committed the crime with a purpose to intimidate a person or group because of, inter alia, race. After Apprendi pleaded guilty, the prosecutor filed a motion to enhance the sentence. The court found by a preponderance of the evidence that the shooting was racially motivated and sentenced Apprendi to a 12-year term on the firearms count.

    U.S.Supreme Court:
    The Constitution requires that any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction, must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

  5. nyp10025 says:

    Precisely how did the defendant in the Mitchell case suffer an equal protection violation?

  6. If a crime committed against a protected class draws a bigger penalty, there is no equal protection of the laws. The laws protect some more than others.


  7. Steve says:

    Conservatives should be able to file hate crime charges against liberals, liberals are always calling us mean things and threatening us!

  8. Nyp says:

    But in the Mitchell case the defendant was black and the victim was white. You are saying the Wisconsin hate crime law treated white people as a protected class???

  9. Rincon says:

    The whole concept of a hate crime law is ridiculous in the first place. If someone kicks my teeth in, his punishment should be the same whether I’m a random or selected victim. The judge already has some latitude to maximize punishment is egregious cases. Let it stand at that. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

  10. […] media that have become little more than pawns of the government or to live under laws in which some classes are more equal than others or to pay your “public servants” far more than you make or to live in a […]

  11. […] media that have become little more than pawns of the government or to live under laws in which some classes are more equal than others or to pay your “public servants” far more than you make or to live in a society in […]

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