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University of Baltimore Law Review

Abstract

[H]ate crimes ... leave deep scars not only on the victims, but on our larger community. They weaken the sense that we are one people with common values and a common future. They tear us apart when we should be moving closer together. They are acts of violence against America itself.. . As part of our preparation for the new century, it is time for us to mount an all-out assault on hate crimes, to punish them swiftly and severely, and to do more to prevent them from happening in the first place. We must begin with a deeper understanding of the problem itself.

1998 was a banner year for people killing out of enhanced animus. On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old African-American man, accepted a ride from three white men who, instead of taking him home, beat him, took off his clothes, chained him naked to the back of their truck, and dragged him to his death. On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, also accepted a ride and was not taken home. Instead he was driven to a remote area, tied to a fence, beaten within an inch of his life, and left to die. These brutal killings were committed because of animus towards the victims' race and sexual orientation, and, consequently, brought hate crimes to the nation's attention.

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