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Thursday, April 29, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 141

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Staff Editorial
 

EDITORIAL BOARD

John Harp                Ed De La Garza 
Michelle Norton     Jim Parsons 
 

Making the world a better place

The Texas Legislature is now in its initial phase of adopting House Bill 938, unofficially known as the James Byrd Jr. Act. This measure, if passed, will allow for the punishment of crimes considered as targeting specific groups to be raised one level. This means that a conviction of murder could be raised to capital murder, or more importantly, the death penalty.

The House gave its initial approval Tuesday, by an 83-61 vote. From there it will move to the final House vote, followed by a Senate vote, after which it will be presented to Gov. George W. Bush for final approval. Bush has yet to agree to sign the bill, saying he is "concerned that it is difficult to distinguish between one kind of hate and another."

In this world of increasingly violent murders, the bill can be seen as something that benefits us all. It makes us feel safer to know that no matter who we are, what we believe in or what color we are, the state of Texas is here to protect us. If it can't, it will make damn sure our assailants are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The Byrd Act is basically a "feel good" bill. If this bill had come one month later, it would have included crimes against teachers and student-athletes.

It is, in fact, difficult to label different kinds of hate. Aren't all murders in effect "hate crimes?" You obviously don't love the other person when you're in the act of killing them. You may hear arguments such as "I loved her so much I couldn't stand to see her with another man," but that never works.

This isn't to say that we don't abhor these crimes, but a murder is a murder is a murder. While tragic, does Byrd's death have more meaning than that of a mother killed because she was in her house at the wrong time? If it does, try telling that to her family.

One supposes that this trend of making up for past evils will continue until the world is without sin -- oh, wait, that's never going to happen. Where's the bill aimed at stopping "Heisman trophy winning athletes turned bad actors?"

We can all agree that hate crimes are bad, but then all crimes are bad. That's why they're crimes.

This is a reactionary bill. Reactionaries don't prevent crimes. They only look stupid when they say, "You're kidding. This kind of thing really goes on?"

We know these kinds of things happen. Do something before they happen -- not after.

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