Nothing the right wing says surprises or shocks me anymore, especially when it comes to things like gay rights or marriage equality. That’s why when I saw this clip of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) say that labeling the murder of Matthew Shephard a hate crime was a “hoax” doesn’t shock me.
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]
All the evidence, including a sworn statement by one of the killers of Mr. Shephard, says that of course it was a hate crime; he was singled out and killed because he was gay. That’s not the issue. The right-wing and anti-gay lobby has used this line of attack before; Matthew Shephard was “asking for it,” or the “gay panic” defense, used when a man beats the crap out of another man because he thought he was being approached for sex. Underlying it all is that being gay is not worth protecting against being lynched, and the LGBT community is asking for “special rights” when they have the temerity to ask that sexual orientation be included in the decades-old law that allows federal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, and national origin.
Again, that’s nothing new, and again, that’s not the issue. What is the issue is that Ms. Foxx and her like-minded right-wingers can get up on the floor of the House of Representatives and make these claims and say that it’s an attempt to legislate against hate speech — it’s not, as Glenn Greenwald points out — and do it in the presence of Matthew Shephard’s mother and get nothing in response. No one stood up on the floor of the House to demand that Ms. Foxx both get her facts right and apologize for her cruelty to the mother of a murder victim who was sitting in the House gallery watching the debate. There was no one standing in Statuary Hall coming to the defense of both the law and the millions of people who have the same right to be protected against hate crimes as everyone else. Ms. Foxx knew that she could get away with her banal evil, and if confronted, play the victim of hate herself from those icky gays with their Radical Homosexual Agenda. That would probably play very well in her district back in North Carolina.
It should be noted that Ms. Foxx tried to backtrack on her comments, but her contrition isn’t about what she said; it was about a “poor choice of words.” That means that she hasn’t changed her mind — she still believes the lie — but she learned a little about P.R.
The good news is that the bill she was speaking against passed the hate crimes bill 249-175 with 18 Republicans voting Yes. But it still means that there are 175 members of Congress, including Democrats, who think it’s okay to deny equal protection to people based on the fact that they’re gay. That’s the banality of evil for you.