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No. of Recommendations: 7
I have a problem with using speech to define hate crimes. So much is gained or lost when a single word is removed from a situation or taken out of context.

Also, we tend as a society to judge some words as more detrimental than others. If one derogatory word is deemed hateful and punishable, shouldn't all of them be?

For example, if the kid had called a straight kid a "faggot" it's no longer a hate crime? What if he had called a fat kid "fat ass"? I bet he wouldn't have been charged with a hate crime then, but really is the situation that different? Or what if it was a girl and he called her a "s---"?

For what it's worth, I think we as society define hate speech as speech could be reasonably interpreted as potentially violent. If I am a gay man, and a straight man starts calling me a faggot, recent history has shown that I could be in a deadly situation. Same thing if I am a black man being called a n***** by a white man. It doesn't even have to be a derogatory word: calling someone a jew in the wrong circumstance could be hate speech.

Being called a fat ass? I can't think of many cases when fat people have been killed for being fat. Discriminated against? Sure. But not dead. Same thing with "s---". Teased, ostracticed? Yes. Dead. Not without other circumstances (like a jilted lover).

I think the issue in this circumstance was that the situation was a hostile one. And then some words that were used that could be used to incite actual violence. Your stepson didn't mean anything by it, I presume. But with a bunch of young testosterone floating around and the faggot word being thrown around, I can understand a gay man being afraid of suddenly ganged up on. Young men have been killed in similar situations.

Which is why we have hate speech laws. We as a society don't want let things have to escalate to actual violence before we take action. When someone burns a cross on someone's lawn we don't want to be restricted by the fact that little actual damage was done. When a bunch of straight men surround a gay man and start pushing him around and chanting faggot we don't want to have our hands tied.

Can hate speech laws be taken too far. I'm sure. And I'm sure we can find hundreds of cases in the US were that is happened. But don't underestimate the fact that the other boy might have been in fear for his life.

Just my two cents.

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