Reginald Parson argues that penalties for hate crimes should be increased in this state (Maine Voices, May 29). He bases this in part on an incident in Biddeford involving two white men who are accused of using a racial epithet against and attacking a black man, punching him and breaking his jaw, and hitting him in the back of the head.

The designation of hate crimes is based on the 1992 Maine Civil Rights Act, which prohibits the use or threat of violence or property damage motivated by that person’s race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation.

I can certainly understand why Parson would be incensed at a light sentence for the physical violence in Biddeford, but I question the above list of characteristics. For example, who made up the list? Is there some common denominator? And if so, what is it, and why not use that defining principle?

One argument in favor of defining certain crimes as hate crimes was spelled out by Robert O. Trestan, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. In a 2017 letter to The Boston Globe, he wrote: “Hate crime statutes are necessary because the failure to recognize and effectively address this unique type of crime can cause an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension.” In other words, a crime against one person is seen as a threat against many.

Now consider the case of Dustin J. Friedland, who, after walking to his Range Rover with his wife in 2013, was jumped by two men and shot in the head. Is it not reasonable to believe that people driving expensive cars might feel tension as a consequence? And if that were to happen, should not such people be put on the above list?

According to the 14th Amendment, no person should be denied “the equal protection of the laws.” Our Civil Rights Act provides for unequal protection.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island

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