Politics Interfering With D.C. Hate Crimes Law

Maggie Gallagher

8/23/2012 9:20:00 AM - Maggie Gallagher

Last week, a man with a master's degree from George Mason University, a gun and 50 rounds of ammo walked into the Family Research Council. When a building manager named Leo Johnson blocked his entry, he shot Leo in the arm.

Leo Johnson wrestled the shooter to the ground, saving untold lives. The shooter then begged for mercy from the unarmed man, saying something like, "Don't shoot me. It was not about you. It was what this place stands for."

In the shooter's backpack were 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, which he apparently planned to drop on the bodies of the many people he wanted to kill. The shooter's parents later told police that he "has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner."

The shooter (whom I refuse to name) has been charged with assault with intent to kill and with bringing a firearm across state lines. But he has not been charged with violating D.C.'s hate crime laws.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has come under considerable just criticism for lumping in "anti-gay" groups like FRC with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But a more serious double standard has so far flown under the radar screen.

It's bad when a private group misuses its social capital fighting genuine civil rights abuses to label a mainstream Christian advocacy group a hate group. But it's far worse when the police fail to enforce the law equally. And that is what I believe is happening. Why has the D.C. police refused to prosecute as a potential hate crime what the FBI is investigating as an act of domestic terrorism?

The D.C. anti-bias statute is quite broad and its language clearly includes politically motivated crimes:

"'Bias-related crime' means a designated act that demonstrates an accused's prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act." D.C. Code 22-3701.

On Aug. 16 the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release and called on the Metropolitan Police to investigate the crime as a possible hate crime:

"We are confident that the Metropolitan Police Department will fully investigate this crime. If the facts reveal that the perpetrator was motivated by unlawful bias, law enforcement authorities should consider prosecution under the D.C. Bias Crime Statute."

So why hasn't the shooter been charged with a hate crime?

The Family Research Council opposes hate crimes laws, but that should have nothing to do with whether a law on the books gets enforced equally. Bias crimes are based on the theory that the victims of a bias crime are not just the individual harmed, but all others in the class intended to be terrorized by the crime.

Is political pressure in liberal D.C. keeping the police from enforcing the law?

I ask this question in part for a personal reason. The FRC shooting came a week after a package addressed to me personally showed up in the National Organization for Marriage offices filled with feces and hate and used condoms. (I have stepped down from the NOM board, but apparently the guy who dropped off the package isn't keeping up with the latest.)

According to NOM office workers who were there at the time, the police wanted to investigate it as a potential hate crime. The police LGBT hate crimes division was called to the scene (odd, because obviously the hatred thus expressed against me and NOM was not directed at LGBT people) and told the cops not to investigate it as a hate crime. The cops tried to argue with them, but no deal.

In at least two instances, to my direct knowledge, a crime directed at a person or organization who opposes gay marriage was not investigated by D.C. cops as a bias crime.

A nasty package is a minor event. A shooter who intended mass murder is deadly serious.

Together they make up a pattern.

Do we have to wait for a third incident before the police of the District of Columbia, which is ultimately controlled by Congress, act to make sure the laws are enforced equally for all?