2008_08_speech.jpgLast week, a July beating where the attacker allegedly told his victim, "We don't like faggots on Barker Street," was deemed a hate crime by the Staten Island DA's office. Chief ADA Dan Master said the victim "was targeted because of his perceived sexual orientation," and charged 24-year-old James Champagne with third-degree assault as a hate crime, a felony, and second-degree aggravated harassment, a misdemeanor.

This week, the NAACP entered the fray (Champagne is black); the Staten Island Advance reported president of the NAACP's Staten Island chapter, Ed Josey, as saying, "We're not saying that word should be used, but in a fight, [saying it] doesn't necessarily make it a hate crime." Some of Champagne's relatives and friends are also openly gay. But the NY Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project told the Advance just because someone has "out" friends and family "doesn't mean a person is incapable of bias against strangers."

The SI DA's office stands by the hate crime charges given the information so far. Last year, when a black man was beaten by white youths who allegedly used racial epithets), the SI DA's office charged the alleged attacker with hate crimes. Also, a 2005 Howard Beach beating was deemed a hate crime because the attacker used the n-word; the mother of the suspect (who was later convicted) had said, "Every kid in the neighborhood uses it. It doesn't mean the same thing anymore. They all say it all day long, no matter what race." The Advance has an editorial agreeing with Josey and here's the ACLU's explanation of why it opposes colleges' restrictions of hate speech.