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CWA Testimony on SB2052:
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Janne Myrdal, and I am the State Director for Concerned Women for America (CWA) of North Dakota. CWA is the largest public policy women’s organization in the nation with more than 500,000 members. We are here today in opposition to SB2052.
We strongly object to the terms “hate crimes” and “sexual orientation” being added to the North Dakota Century Code, which is the intent of SB2052. Special rights have historically been afforded to certain groups in order to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against due to immutable characteristics. North Dakota law already protects these characteristics. “Hate crimes” and “sexual orientation” are terms that are ambiguous at best and open the door of the judiciary to be subjected to an imbalanced and subjective process.
We assert that all crimes, including crimes committed towards anyone of any kind of sexual lifestyle, already receive the full penalty under current North Dakota law. We should not allow double jeopardy to take effect due to the victim’s sexual lifestyle. In doing so, the doors open to an unstable and ambiguous process of law that can run amok with subjective rulings based on prejudice, not law.
The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affords equal protection to every citizen under the law. SB2052 would create law that treats victims differently based on their class. Such laws do not equally protect all citizens. They create new “classes” of victims instead of treating all citizens as equal. This slippery slope has no legal end and cannot sustain equal justice for all.
While the intent-based evaluation for murder examines intent and treats all criminals equally, “hate crimes” laws require an evaluation of a criminal’s thoughts and treats victims differently based on their identity. According to the FBI’s annual report on “hate crimes,” identifying feelings is beyond law enforcement’s ability and jurisdiction. The determination of thoughts and feelings involves enormous possibility of error. To maintain order and justice, government must judge actions – not feelings.
All “hate crimes” laws attempt to read people’s thoughts, motives and attitudes violating Freedom of Speech by silencing and punishing all opposing viewpoints. According to some experts in the law some jurisdictions have defined as “hate” not just violent physical acts but verbal acts as well; in fact, most so-called “hate crimes” are intimidation and name-calling rather than physical acts of violence. The FBI statistics show that there were only 5,190 hate crimes reported in 2005; of these 301 were listed as intimidation; 333 were listed as “assault”; 177 were listed as aggravated assault compared to national statistics that show there were 862,947 aggravated assaults against all persons in the U.S. This is 0.000205 percent of all aggravated assaults. [FBI Crime in the United States 2005, Aggravated Assault]
A crime is a crimethere should be no elite groups, creating a hierarchy of victims.
“Hate crimes” laws also grant more government protection to certain classes of people, violating the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution “Hate crimes” laws create different classes of victims, giving priority to those who define themselves under the non-traditional “sexual orientation” term. (It should be noted that according to the therapeutic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, there are at least 20 distinctive sexual variations of “sexual orientation.”)
Another aspect of SB2052 is that “hate crimes” laws include the dangerous aspect of criminalizing thoughts rather than actions. This becomes a direct attack on the First Amendment rights to free speech. SB 2052 expands and redefines North Dakota Century code in overly broad language that could lead to very subjective interpretations. Under this bill, individuals could claim, and courts interpret, that merely expressing one’s sincerely held beliefs is “intimidating” or represent a “threat” of force.
In a country and state where freedom is cherished, expression concerning social, political or religious issues should not be considered as assault, hate or violence. This bill will not only cause stifling of free speech, but has the possibility and intent at times to halt various forms of peaceful conduct, should someone find it “hateful.”
In general, “hate crimes” laws give the government, judges and bureaucrats the opportunity to interpret and classify speech and thoughts as unlawful. It gives penalties based on what people think, feel or believe. That is a direct assault on the Constitution itself and the common sense, strength of character and founding principles upon which this great nation and state were built. It will lead to chaos in the courts which, of course, comes at a high cost to taxpayers. Possibilities of frivolous civil law suits will be endless and costly.
Further, those “class” privileges under the “sexual orientation” definition would have a significant impact on the constitutional rights of North Dakotans who may have a moral objection to certain sexual behavior. Both federal and North Dakota law already prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment. If SB 2052 becomes law, it will communicate to the citizens of North Dakota that the political agenda of a few is more important than the time-honored and cherished First Amendment principles upon which our country was founded and promised to everyone. The liberties we now all enjoy, regardless of sexual preferences, will all stand defenseless against this discriminatory proposed law.
Allow us also to state that it should be the personal duty of all citizens to behave in a respectful manner towards our fellow citizens, without being compelled or directed by law, so as to afford all the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, as well as freedom of speech. We should all strive to behave so.
One of the tragedies of legislation like we see introduced here today is the fact that while well meaning and under the assumption of progress and empathy, this law actually disrespects the core of humanity itself and ends up robbing us of the freedoms so clearly protected by the Constitution.
We, again, urge your “Do Not Pass” vote on SB2052. Your consideration of this request is appreciated.