Nearly six years after two women were bound and gagged and had their throats slit while camping and hiking in Shenandoah National Park, U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft held a historic nationally televised press conferenceon April 11, 2002 to announce that the U.S. Justice Department invoked the federal hate crimes statute for the first time to charge the alleged murderer with hate crime. In announcing the indictment, Ashcroft spoke at length about his meeting with the parents of the victims and about the lives and characters of the young women: two Midwesterners who migrated to New England, met and became lovers, and shared the love of science and the outdoors. Justifying the invocation of federal hate crime law, which carries with it enhanced penalties, Ashcroft said, “Criminal acts of hate run counter to what is best in America, our belief in equality and freedom. The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate, prosecute, and punish criminal acts of violence and vigilantism motivated by hate and intolerance.”1 Moreover, he said, “We will pursue, prosecute, and punish those who attack law-abiding Americans out of hatred for who they are,” and “Hatred is the enemy of justice, regardless of its source.”2


  • In this case, evidence suggests the “source of hatred” is twofold: sexuality and gender

  • According to law enforcement officials, sometime after being arrested, Rice told law enforcement officials that he intentionally selected women to assault “because they are more vulnerable than men,” that he “hates gays,” and that the victims in this case “deserved to die because they were lesbian whores.”[3] lead Assistant U.S Attorney Tom Bondurant, Jr. plans to argue that Rice chose to slit the throats of the two young women because of their gender and because of their “actual or perceived sexual orientation.”[4]. According to court documents, Bondurant will introduce evidence of the defendant’s numerous physical and verbal assaults upon randomly selected women, including acts of road rage, physical assaults, demeaning sexual comments, and threats of injury or death

  • As the first federal prosecution of a hate crime based on gender, this case raises a plethora of questions about the status, meaning, and workings of gender in hate crime policy in the U.S there is a growing body of literature on the ways in which public policy associated with crime control is gendered,[6] the literature is surprisingly silent when it comes to understanding the ways in which gender—as a central axis of differentiation around which violence and discrimination manifest—has been constructed, positioned, and reacted to via the emergence, content, and evolution of public policy on bias-motivated violence, especially legal reform and law

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Considering Three High-Profile Cases

In the latter part of the 1990s, three highly publicized cases of homicide occurred in which the victims were chosen because of a social characteristic. The first was the murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas in June of 1998 This event, covered extensively in the national media, presented the murder as a “hate crime” after it was revealed that Byrd, a 49-year-old black man, had been beaten and dragged to his death behind a truck by three white men known to be affiliated with a white supremacist group.[21] Shortly thereafter, the murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man who was pistol-whipped, tied to a fence, and left to die, was treated as a hate crime by the national news media.[22] In contrast to these two incidents, the murder of four young girls in a Jonesboro, Arkansas schoolyard in March of 1998 generally has not been viewed as a hate crime, despite the revelation that the young boys in custody for the killings sought to shoot girls because it was girls that angered them. Consistent with these views, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, lawmakers throughout the U.S began to respond to what they perceived to be an escalation of violence directed at minorities with a novel legal strategy: the criminalization of discriminatory violence, commonly referred to as “hate crime.” As a result, by the turn of the century, “in seemingly no time at all, a ‘hate crimes jurisprudence’ had sprung up.”[28]

Defining the Parameters of Hate Crime Law
The Content of State Hate Crime Law
The Status of Gender in State Hate Crime Law
The Content of Federal Hate Crime Law
The Enforcement of Gender Provisions in Hate Crime Law
Gender and the Dilemma of Difference Historically
Resolving the Dilemma of Difference
Applying the “Norm of Sameness”

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