Undermining the principal of equal justice

Published 12:32 am Monday, May 7, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
Last week, the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, H.R. 1592, by a vote of 237-180.
This legislation would provide federal assistance to states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes. Hate crimes are defined as crimes motivated by feelings of bias because of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
If this legislation becomes law, it would supersede current laws punishing perpetrators of the underlying crimes. In some cases, such hate crime laws would supersede Alabama laws making it impossible to impose capital punishment when a hate crime has been committed.
Under this bill, a criminal who kills a person in one of the "protected" categories will be punished more harshly than criminals who kill a police officer, a member of the military, or any other person not in this "protected" category.
In my view, justice should be equally available for all victims of a crime. However, under this bill, justice would no longer be "equal justice for all." It would allow different penalties to be imposed for the same crime if you are in one of these "protected" categories.
As a child, I was always impressed by the fact that Lady Justice was blindfolded for a reason – justice is, or at least should be, handed down objectively, regardless of who is brought before the court.
For these reasons, I did not support H.R. 1592 as I believe this bill would hinder the very rights of those it intends to protect.
As I mentioned, this bill did pass the House, and it now awaits action in the Senate.
2007 Congressional Art Contest Winners
The Mobile Museum of Art was once again the sponsor of the Congressional Art Contest: An Artistic Discovery. Over the past several years, this contest has become a highly successful way of showcasing the artistic and creative talents of young people from across the nation.
As in the past, the winning entry from the First District will be sent to Washington, D.C., and will be displayed in the halls of the Capitol for one year along with the winning entries from other congressional districts from across the country. I am proud to continue sponsorship of this contest because of the exposure it provides for area talent.
Created in 1982, the nationwide art competition has showcased the artistic and creative talents of thousands of young people for over two decades.
This year, Bailey Miller of Baker High School, a student of art instructor Ann Fredella, was awarded first-place honors for her entry, "Water Wonderland."
In addition to this award, she is also eligible for a scholarship from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her artwork along with the other winning entries will be displayed for one year in the United States Capitol building.
Last week, I was happy to attend the reception honoring all of this year's winners and their families at the Mobile Museum of Art.
Other winners from this year's show are:
Honorable Mention:
Annual Workshop for High School Leaders
This past Monday, I held my annual Workshop for High School Leaders on the campus of the University of South Alabama. A tradition in the First Congressional District for over twenty years, the workshop is a highly successful way of encouraging the leaders of tomorrow to take an interest in the events shaping the world around them.
We had an overwhelming response from several high schools throughout the First District. High school government and journalism students had the opportunity to question representatives from all levels of state and federal government, as well as members of the Gulf Coast broadcast and print media.
I would like to sincerely thank all those who attended, especially, state Sens. Bradley Byrne and Ben Brooks, state Rep. James Buskey, Bob Grip of WALA, Brian Johnson of WPMI, Anissa Centers of WALA, Frances Coleman of the Press-Register, Rob Holbert of Lagniappe, Rose Ann Haven of WKRG, and Mobile County Juvenile Judge Edmond Naman.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox