Limits on hate crime laws

In mid-February, a 15-year-old boy in Oxnard, CA, was shot in the head by a 14-year-old classmate who now faces murder charges. As reported by the LA Times, several students said the victim had come out as gay. According to authorities, "If the suspect targeted [the victim] because of his sexual orientation, the case could rise to the level of a hate crime."

A recent paper by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) summarizes the constitutional issues for states and Congress when enacting hate crime laws. CRS cites several U.S. Supreme Court cases that provide the parameters for such legislation.
After these landmark cases, the real questions for states involve identifying permissible ways to curtail hate crimes without infringing on any constitutionally protected rights. On the federal level...the question remains as to what extent Congress can broaden the classes of individuals subject to hate crime legislation.
The paper discusses the applicability of the commerce clause, the Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th), and the 1st and 6th Amendments.

Constitutional Limits on Hate Crime Legislation, RS22812 (pdf, 6pp/76kB, from Open CRS), Feb. 20, 2008

See earlier FR post, Dealing with "symbols of fear and violence," 10.25.07. §706-662, Hawaii Revised Statutes, therein was amended by HB2, which became Act 1, Session Laws of Hawaii 2007, 2nd Special Session.

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