Boehner’s understanding of ‘immutable characteristics’

BOEHNER’S UNDERSTANDING OF ‘IMMUTABLE CHARACTERISTICS’…. Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he would oppose a military spending bill because it included a provision to expand hate-crime protections.

“All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance,” Boehner argued. “The Democrats’ ‘thought crimes’ legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance.”

There’s at least some consistency to the argument. If a bigot violently attacks a victim, Boehner doesn’t care if hatred motivated the crime. It’s a debatable point, but it’s not a ridiculous position.

That is, until one digs a little deeper. CBS News, responding to Boehner’s comment, inquired as to whether the Minority Leader opposes all hate-crime laws, including the ones already on the books that offer protections based on race, color, religion, and national origin. After all, if Boehner doesn’t want to consider the circumstances behind a violent crime, and doesn’t want to pursue “thought crimes,” then he’d necessarily reject the rationale behind every hate-crime law, right? Wrong.

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner “supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics.”

It should be noted that the current law does not include gender, though the expanded legislation would cover gender as well as sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

“He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes,” Smith continued.

Boehner’s position, then, appears to be grounded in the notion that immutable characteristics should be protected under hate crimes laws. And while religion is an immutable characteristic, his office suggests, sexual orientation is not.

So much for consistency. Religion is immutable? The word means, “Not subject or susceptible to change.” In other words, an immutable personal characteristic is one a person is born with and cannot alter.

No one is born with a faith tradition, and people convert to different faiths all the time, sometimes more than once. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is genetic. And even if Boehner were to deny this, immutability still doesn’t make any sense as a legal standard since people can and do change their religious beliefs.

The Minority Leader could just acknowledge he doesn’t like gay people. It’d be easier than coming up with bizarre rationales like this one.

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