Homophobic Asshole of the Week: Virginia Foxx

Miriam touched on this briefly yesterday when the Matthew Shepard Act passed the House, but this really takes the cake. Anyone that is opposed to hate crime legislation must have a tremendous super power to ignore all the violence that has been inflicted upon marginalized populations all through out history, a violence that continues. And anyone with this power must be deeply evil.
Take for example Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Congresswoman who dared to suggest that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard was a hoax.

Transcript:

Rep. Foxx: “The bill was named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. The bill was named for him, the hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s, it’s really a hoax, that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”[House Floor Speech, 4/29/09]

Always take fundies at their word, even when they try and backpedal.

Via Pam’s House Blend.

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60 Comments

  1. Joe
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Hate crime laegislation was created by the federal government after all white juries found white murderers of a black man not guilty despite a preponderance of evidence aginst the perpetrators.
    It was created so the federal government could prosecute crimes normally outside it’s jurisdiction. Hate crime legislation has it’s place, but not at the state level, any community that’s going to return not guilty on murder despite the evidence is going to return not guilty on hate crimes when attached to the murder. Then the federal government would be unable to prosecute due to double jeopardy.
    I think it’s convient to think people aginst hate crime legislation are all bigots who think it’s alright for people of one particular group to be murdered, but that’s just not the case. The reasons for and against hate crimes are complex and not simply a choice between being a bigot and not being a bigot.

  2. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    However Joe, that was clearly not the case here. Way to change the subject.

  3. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    What a douche. Yes, and the Holocaust NEVER happened!

  4. Joe
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Read the second and third sentences in the OP. Virginia Foxx was merely used as evidence to support Samhita’s statement that anyone aginst hate crime legislation was deeply evil. I never changed the subject.

  5. Ariel
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Good Lord. Oh! and I heard she got her facts from the web. Glad to see our elected officials check their facts *head desk*.

  6. Creighton Hogg
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Yeah, calling anyone who opposes hate crime laws ‘deeply evil’ might be a bit over the top.
    Personally, I’m for them because I think they reflect the reality that a crime targeted against a person from any kind of minority (sexual, racial, etc.) intimidates & hurts the lives of that group as a whole.
    I can understand, though, how it could make some people skittish.
    In any case, what Rep. Foxx said was reprehensible. Even if it was true somehow that Shepard wasn’t killed because he was gay I can’t see how it’d be relevant to this bill. It was a transparent attempt to polarize the debate on the bill.

  7. KMcDermott
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Joe, calling the Matthew Shepard murder “a hoax” instead of what it was– a brutal crime based solely on the victim’s sexual orientation– is evidence that Foxx is, in fact, a bigot. That’s what this is about. Your argument is irrelevant.

  8. ACP
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    According to Keith Olbermann, Matthew’s mother was present when she said all of those awful things. Disgusting.

  9. ACP
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    According to Keith Olbermann, Matthew’s mother was present when she said all of those awful things. Disgusting.

  10. Mollie
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Oh my god, that is disgusting, you are right. Judy Shepard is an amazing, strong, supportive woman who does not deserve to hear hate speech like this. No one does.

  11. Kate
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    He wasn’t defending Foxx. He was saying that not all people who support hate crime legislation are bigots, like her. His argument is not irrelevant.

  12. Kate
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    *who DON’T support hate crime legislation, that should read.
    For the record, I do support hate crime legislation. But let him make his point.

  13. PamelaVee
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    that’s where I first saw this. What a despicable human being. I couldn’t believe someone would say that..esp. in front of his mother. I am glad Keith re-told what happened, re-humanized it. He was tortured and murdered. To use the word “hoax” is completely inappropriate.

  14. ACP
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Ack. Sorry for the double post.

  15. Lauren
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I live in her district and honestly, I’m quite surprised she was re-elected this past November. Such a disappointment!

  16. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I think there are some legitimate reasons to oppose or at least be unsure about hate crime legislation, but trolls like Joe and liars like Rep. Foxx give any rational members of the opposition a bad name.
    Please don’t get me wrong–I’m against the current oppression of all the groups protected by the legislation, against violence in all non-consensual situations, against most crimes, and in fact strongly against hate crimes. The problem to me is that hate crime legislation seems to punish people not just for what they do but for what they think. That kind of legislation, while it might seem like the best way to solve terrible injustice, could set a precedent for passing laws that are more about what people are thinking than what people are doing. And as a reader of 1984, I get very uneasy whenever thoughtcrime is legislated.

  17. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    See the discussion on this issue on the post about the law passing the House. No one gets punished for what they think as long as they don’t decide to follow up those thoughts with violent action.

  18. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Murder has always been treated differently depending on the thoughts behind it. People are convicted of higher sentences for pre-meditated murder, and people are convicted of lower sentences when they were ‘provoked’ or if it was ‘a crime of passion.’ Aren’t the only differences there the “thoughts” and “intentions” behind it?
    And the purpose behind hate crime legislation isn’t to target the thoughts behind the crime, it is to target the RESULTS of hate crime. The result of hate crimes is that entire groups of people are made to feel targeted and unsafe in our society. The thinking is that a hate crime doesn’t just affect the victim and those close to the victim, it affects an entire group.

  19. Catriona
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I have a gay friend who was brutally beaten when he was seventeen in the park. It wasn’t until then that I truly understood the level of hate people could feel. The kind of evil they could inflict. So I do not think evil is too strong of a word.
    As North Carolinian, I seriously cannot stand Foxx and don’t understand how she got re-elected either.

  20. delilahfantastic
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Okay, as much as this woman is a completely fucking disgusting human being, I think it’s a stretch to call anyone opposed to hate crimes legislation “deeply evil”. Consider, for example, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s non-endorsement of the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

    As a nation, we lock up more people per capita than any other country in the world; one in one hundred adults are behind bars in the U.S. Our penalties are harsher and sentences longer than they are anywhere else on the planet, and hate crime laws with sentencing enhancements make them harsher and longer. By supporting longer periods of incarceration and putting a more threatening weapon in the state’s hands, this kind of legislation places an enormous amount of faith in our deeply flawed, transphobic, and racist criminal legal system. The application of this increased power and extended punishment is entirely at to the discretion of a system riddled with prejudice, institutional bias, economic motives, and corruption.

    I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with SRLP, but I *am* saying that opposing hate crime laws is not inherently evil. Maybe in our rush to support hate crime legislation, we’re ignoring other problems with the American criminal justice system, and failing to consider other options.
    (NB: for those who don’t know, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project provides legal service for trans people, mostly low-income, and mostly of colour.)

  21. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Also, as another person said on the other thread, people who engage in hate crimes are more likely to be repeat offenders, and people who are more likely to be repeat offenders SHOULD have higher sentences.

  22. Joe
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Sbeath, I take issue with your accusation that I’m a troll. I have presented reasoned arguements in this thread and previous ones. Please tell me what you find trollish about my conduct in these forums so I may correct my actions.

  23. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Also, hate crime legislation serves the function of reversing the historical trend (and by historical I mean throughout the 20th century up to present day) of people using a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as an excuse. If hate crime legislation is in place, then “I killed her/him because s/he was gay/trans” is an admission of guilt rather than a defense.

  24. SaraLaffs
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Rep. Foxx IS a bigot. She voted against the voting rights act and was one of the only people to vote against the emergency relief funding after Hurricane Katrina. She’s one of the few truly hateful people I’ve ever met. Exhibit A in my continuing argument that women representatives are not necessarily always more progressive or “better” for women or marginalized groups.

  25. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    But from what I understand about the law, the converse of what you’re saying isn’t true, that is: people who commit the same crime could theoretically be punished differently based on what they were thinking before or during the crime.

  26. llevinso
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    What you were thinking ALWAYS plays into how you are going to be punished/prosecuted for murder. If you were trying to just scare someone with a gun but accidentally ended up killing the person…that’s taken into account. If you planned on murdering someone for months and then went through with it…that’s taken into account. If you killed someone because you were trying to protect yourself…that’s taken into account.

  27. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    First off, thanks for responding to my comment–I haven’t found much helpful discussion of the rationale behind hate crimes legislation in more traditional channels.
    To respond:
    It seems to me that murder has been differentiated by the actions–preparing versus not–behind it.
    Further, I worry that this kind of logic would be applied other places–where if you’re known to be a critic of police tactics (and are seen as hating police), you get increased charges for resisting arrest. There seem to be a lot of opportunities where this kind of legislative thinking could be abused.
    At the same time, I agree with your second comment regarding the results of hate crimes. that’s why I’m ambivalent about the legislation: it seems to be the only thing we can think of to legally address the societal problem, but the way we have to go about doing this seems problematic at best.

  28. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Sincere apologies for the offense given. I looked at a comment that seemed to veer off-topic (talking about states) with a lot of declarative sentences (in the first two paragraphs) and a tack that seemed to oppose what a lot of people here would think, saw a couple of extremely minor spelling/grammar mistakes, and made an assumption.
    Rereading, I probably agree with most of what you’ve said.

  29. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I guess my view of the legal system is too rosy–I would think that admitting you killed someone would be an admission of guilt anywhere, and any description of the person besides them presenting an overwhelming threat to your life/safety would be at best irrelevant, and at worst further implication of guilt.

  30. Joe
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ll try to improve my spelling in the future…?

  31. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    At some level, I think there needs to be a differentiation between thoughts involved in making plans and opinions/feelings. The thinking that “ALWAYS” gets taken into account seems to be more of the actions, not whether or not you like/hate someone or something.

  32. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Who knows…I’d probably be identified as the troll on the comment stream after all this.
    I think when you express minority opinions in any one sided group, you need to do a little more hedging and explaining. There’s been some research that shows our brains resist opposition arguments at an unconscious level, and so–at least from that research–people are going to be biologically predisposed to take everything you say (that they disagree with) in the worst possible light.
    Hedging and adding nuance at the beginning can make your argument sound weaker, but I’d expect they helped me here: I said something probably more controversial and less supportable than you did (hate crime legislation might be a bad idea versus not all opposers are bigots), but I got nicer, more thought-out responses. I think if you’d flipped the order of your paragraphs, you might have gotten a better response.
    (To hedge–if I sound anything but anxiously trying to be helpful, it’s not intentional.)

  33. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Well here are some results from my quick googling skills:
    “People v. Schmitz is perhaps the most infamous case in which a defendant has asserted the Homosexual Panic Defense (HPD). In defense of his actions, Schmitz argued that the humiliation of being objectified by Amedure’s homosexual affections drove him to kill. Basically, he blamed Amedure; more specifically, he blamed Amedure’s sexuality. In so doing, he asked the jury to sympathize with his reaction to this homosexual crush. They sympathized. The jury found Schmitz guilty of the LESSER OFFENSE of second-degree murder, despite the fact that the prosecution tried him for first-degree murder.
    Although the Schmitz case is an infamous example of the HPD’s role in reducing culpability for anti-gay violence, the case is not unique.
    See generally Robert G. Bagnall et al., Comment, Burdens on Gay Litigants and Bias in the Court System: Homosexual Panic, Child Custody, and Anonymous Parties, 19 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 497, 497–515 (1984) (detailing case law involving the HPD)

  34. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Also:
    “Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. For example, one expert estimates that transgender individuals living in America today have a one in 12 chance of being murdered.”
    ONE in TWELVE
    http://www.hrc.org/issues/1508.htm

  35. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    The most recent example would be the Andrade trial where Andrade used the trans panic defense for his murder of Angie Zapata.
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/08/04/killing-a-woman-because-shes-trans-not-a-classic-hate-crime/
    Thankfully, the jury didn’t buy it. But whether or not it is OK to kill someone because they are transgender should NOT be left up to jury discretion, EVER.

  36. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if this is on the other thread–I’m trying to post before I go somewhere, and I can’t find any other mentions of repeat offenses in the comments.
    While I think that’s the most convincing reason to prosecute hate crimes, I also think it’s extremely problematic. If we were to expand the list of people who are likely to be repeat offenders, I expect poor people would be close to the top of the list (behind addicts). I’m not trying to make some terrible classist argument (I understand that repeat offenses from low-incomes is a systemic factor, not an individual factor), but point out the classist ends that these end-justifies-the-means arguments can end up serving.

  37. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    “If we were to expand the list of people who are likely to be repeat offenders, I expect poor people would be close to the top of the list (behind addicts).”
    That would never be written into law because it would be a clear violation of the equal protection clause to base punishment on a person’s status as poor or as an addict. It has actually been held by the Supreme Court that you can’t punish someone for having the status of drug addict.
    I see a large difference between basing the level of punishment on status and basing it on the motivation behind a crime, the type of crime, and the results of the crime.

  38. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    And to anticipate your counter argument, no, hate crime legislation does not punish someone for having the status of being a bigot. Again, it is about results and motivations.

  39. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard about the homosexual panic defense and I agree it’s absolute crap. I’ve also heard that it’s (finally) starting not to work, though I can’t remember where.
    It sounds like what you might be saying is: “Juries from states full of homophobes are giving passes to people who have done really evil things, so therefore we need hate crimes legislation to make that stop.” I think it’s a relatively strong argument, depending on what you’re looking for–if laws change people’s opinions (and it is starting to look like they do, whether you look at gay marriage recognition or at seatbelt laws), it makes a lot of sense. At the same time, I think there’s a lot of relevance in Joe’s earlier point that if people won’t convict on one, they probably won’t convict on the other.

  40. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    “Further, I worry that this kind of logic would be applied other places–where if you’re known to be a critic of police tactics (and are seen as hating police), you get increased charges for resisting arrest. There seem to be a lot of opportunities where this kind of legislative thinking could be abused.”
    I understand this argument, but the ‘slippery slope’ argument can be used to invalidate pretty much everything. I think it pretty much boils don’t to whether you actually think it is likely that the result of hate crime legislation is that it will expand to situations like you’ve described.
    I see absolutely no reason to believe it will be expanded to the situations you’ve described, so I don’t think the slippery slope argument works to invalidate hate crime legislation.
    I don’t think those results are likely because the US takes First Amendment rights very seriously.
    Do you have any reason to believe otherwise?

  41. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    “It sounds like what you might be saying is: “Juries from states full of homophobes are giving passes to people who have done really evil things, so therefore we need hate crimes legislation to make that stop.” I think it’s a relatively strong argument”
    See my comment below:
    “But whether or not it is OK to kill someone because they are transgender should NOT be left up to jury discretion, EVER.”

  42. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    In contrast, the average person has about a one in 18,000 chance of being murdered.

  43. Citizen Lane
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    This is not an esoteric concept. Mens rea is an essential element of criminality.

  44. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure–things that unfairly target poor people get written into law all the time, so long as they don’t explicitly target poor people. Smoking bans and abortion bans are recognized to disproportionately affect people with low incomes, but in the few cases that they’re repealed, I don’t think equal-protection arguments are at the forefront of the debate.
    The counter-argument I would give is that if we follow the logic of “hate crime commiters are more likely to be repeat offenders” as a rationale, we could look at laws and sentencing based on the idea of someone being more likely to repeat offend (isn’t that the idea behind the “three strikes” laws?)

  45. Citizen Lane
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    This is not an esoteric concept. Mens rea is an essential element of criminality.

  46. Citizen Lane
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    This is not an esoteric concept. Mens rea is an essential element of criminality.

  47. Citizen Lane
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    This is not an esoteric concept. Mens rea is an essential element of criminality.

  48. The Law Fairy
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I really, really, really dislike how the hate crimes debate tends to go in this country. You start out with a completely valid point and legitimate problem — many crimes are used, not just as crimes in and of themselves, but in essence as terrorist techniques designed to psychologically punish people for being different or not fitting whatever preconceived notions of “right” or “normal” or whatever the perpetrator has. But in the ensuing discussion of how best to address this, the conversation usually winds up getting completely derailed.
    Hate crimes legislation is extremely well-intentioned, and in some ways is good because it brings attention to these problems — but it is deeply flawed, largely because it’s completely ineffective. For one thing, when someone commits first-degree murder and is eligible for a sentence of life in prison with no parole (or, in the states that still practice it, capital punishment), how, exactly, do you punish them MORE for not having committed just murder, but a hate crime? You can’t. In essence hate crimes legislation just becomes a way of officially saying, even more strongly “what you did was wrong” — or maybe “what you did wasn’t just wrong, it was SUPER SERIOUSLY wrong.” It makes the justice system wind up looking kind of silly, it doesn’t send a strong message, and, most important of all, it has little to no ACTUAL deterrent effect.
    A much better approach, in my opinion, would be to call out these crimes for what they are: terrorism. Not just terrorism, but DOMESTIC terrorism. There’s a word conservatives like to throw around when they’re looking for a group to vilify. If we could start a public education campaign to drive home the point that these people are TERRORISTS, and start prosecuting them under domestic terrorism laws (rather than creating new “hate crime” laws) I honestly think we’d have a lot more success. We’d also alleviate slippery-slope First Amendment arguments, because then we shift the focus from the thought to the action. Prosecuting terrorism isn’t about prosecuting someone’s feelings — an objection hate crimes legislation has some vulnerability to — it’s about prosecuting their actions and intent (something that IS the law’s business, as others have pointed out). It might make it a lot harder to prove, but crimes should never be easy to prove — that’s the fundamental assumption underlying our justice system (innocent until proven guilty).
    None of which is to take away from the pure bigotry of Foxx’s or anyone else’s words. Bigotry is still WRONG. The problem is trying to make it punishable — you can’t, and in many ways, that is what hate crimes legislation is trying to do, and that’s why a lot of people object to it. What you can and SHOULD punish is assault, intimidation, and terrorism — and we already have laws punishing all of those. What we need to do, instead of asking for new laws, is start educating state prosecutors and publicizing the fact that these people are TERRORISTS. If terrorism is worth hassling innocent people at airports, it’s certainly worth an investigation here or there of an EXISTING police report.

  49. sbeath
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree that it’s no more okay to kill a transperson than a cisperson, and I don’t think that kind of basic morality should be up for debate. Unfortunately, juries decide whether someone is guilty or innocent of a crime based on good and awful reasons all the time, and even if we pass hate crime legislation, it’s not going suddenly change that–jury trials have been a fundamental aspect of our democracy for hundreds of years.
    Hate crimes legislation seems to be pushed and passed mostly because it’s viewed as the only effective legal solution we have to solve the problem of, well, hate crimes. If the legislation is not effective because juries don’t convict on either case, then that’s a huge problem, not just with the implementation but with the argument that was made to get this legislation passed in the first place.
    If you made the more nuanced argument that hate crime legislation should influence general public opinion (as laws do) so that juries are less likely to devalue murder of members of oppressed groups, I’d be much more with you.

  50. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t think equal-protection arguments are at the forefront of the debate.”
    I don’t think they are either. I was just bringing that up to show you that your concerns were unfounded so they shouldn’t be a reason to be against hate crime legislation.
    “The counter-argument I would give is that if we follow the logic of “hate crime commiters are more likely to be repeat offenders” as a rationale, we could look at laws and sentencing based on the idea of someone being more likely to repeat offend (isn’t that the idea behind the “three strikes” laws?)”
    Exactly, legislators take the likelihood that a person will be a repeat offender into account all the time when determining sentences guidelines.

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