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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hate crimes and 'taint' crimes

Just a couple of months ago I posted a piece here called Summer of Hate about the rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes that occurred across the nation over the summer. Now it appears the list of hate crimes I included in that piece was one crime too long.

A Lakeland, Fla., man - already in jail accused of stealing construction materials from his work site - has confessed to stealing items from the home he shared with his partner, spray painting "die fags" on his house, setting it on fire and then claiming his was the victim of a hate crime, according to an article titled Officials say Polk fire story a lie in the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the article:

Christopher Michael Robertson, 23, confessed to setting fire to his and [his partner's] house in Kings Manor Mobile Home Park on July 25, the Lakeland Fire Department said Wednesday.

He told an investigator he took items he had reported stolen from the home and placed them in storage, fire investigators said. Some of those goods were sold, while others remain in his possession.

Robertson, who already was in the Polk County Jail on unrelated charges, faces felony counts of arson, burning to defraud an insurer and making a false insurance claim. He also faces one misdemeanor count of filing a false report to law enforcement.

It was easy to believe Robertson's story. Florida, after all, is going through its own upheaval over gay issues. Not only does the state face a likely "marriage" amendment vote, but Hillsborough County drew national attention earlier this year for not only refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Month in June, but passing an ordinance outlawing events that would "promote" homosexuality. From such boiling cauldrons of bigotry do hate crimes flow.

False hate crime reports do happen. They happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are done to elicit sympathy. One such incident in the Northwest several years ago occurred because the "victims" believed if they could generate sympathy, voters would be more likely to vote against an anti-LGBT ballot measure.

Sometime they happen because the "victim" wants to draw attention to himself, as was the case with one local incident in which the victim claimed to have been attacked by two men who carved the word "fag" in his chest. It didn't take police long to determine the "victim" had carved the word himself - actually "scratched" would be a better word since the word was very superficial. Besides, given that the word was carved upside down, it was obvious to police that it was carved by someone looking down at his chest instead of by an attacker in front of the "victim." Because the local news media had already carried the initial report, they naturally followed it up with a report saying the hate crime incident hadn't happened.

Then you have some human piece of excrement like Robertson who sees not only a way to profit from making a false report, but enjoys a moment in the spotlight as well.

As much as I'd like to line up people like Fred Phelps, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and other world-class homophobes and bitch-slap them until my hands go numb and bleed, I'd put idiots like Robertson at the head of the line.

In falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime, they make the entire LGBT community the victim of a "taint" crime - a crime one person commits, but nevertheless taints an entire group of people.

Every report of a hate crime should be investigated thoroughly. But thanks to actions like Robertson's, the religious reich has fresh ammunition to use to oppose hate crimes laws. Just as Repugnantcans will cut welfare benefits to 100 mothers to keep one "cheat" from getting undeserved benefits, the religious right will parade miscreants like Robertson out every time a legitimate hate crime is reported. "See?" they'll say. "They don't need no hate crime protections 'cause when they get 'em they jes' make up lies about 'em."

If there's any justice in the world, Robertson will still be in jail by the time gay marriage becomes the law of the land.