Speaking of principles, I loved Jacob Sullum’s vintage 1992 Reason piece in opposition to all — and I stress all — hate crimes. What bothers me about the current debate is that it is being spun — by various people on the left and the right — as a debate over homosexuality.
Naturally (and doubtless to maintain this misleading narrative), the bill has been misleadingly titled “The Matthew Shepherd Act” even though — by federalizing non-federal crimes — it goes much further than adding sexual orientation to the list of protected categories.

The new federal nexus requirement is so laughably accommodating that it might as well have been left out. A violent crime against a victim selected for one of the mentioned reasons can be federalized if it “occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim…across a State line or national border”; if the defendant “uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce”; if “the defendant employs a firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce”; if the crime “interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct”; or if the crime “otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.”

(Link via Glenn Reynolds.)
The horrendous expansion of federal power in the “Matthew Shepard Act” serves as proof of how wrong it was to have hate crime legislation in the first place. Adding new categories only compounds the error.
Of course, few people will take the time to analyze these things. They just hear the sound bytes about how it’s “doing something about gay bashing” on the one hand, or “attacking Christian free speech” on the other.
In the past, I wrote a number of posts opposing hate crime laws, and I was severely taken to task by commenters who not only disagreed, but who seemed to think it’s my responsibility to run a debating club. (No it isn’t; I try to say what I think, when I feel like saying it. And if people don’t like it, they can say what they think, but that does not create any obligation on my part.)
Right now, I’m sure they’d say that “the debate is over.” No it isn’t. The political war may have been lost, but this is not a debate. It’s a discussion of principles. Not only do principles survive debates, they even survive wars.
No matter who “wins.”
UPDATE: In a great post, Sean Kinsell raises an excellent point:

if you give into the (thoroughly understandable) temptation to administer a good, sound beating-up to Barney Frank, the hate-crimes bill that just passed the House says…uh…you’d better not be thinking about his homosexuality while you’re doing it….

My thanks to Sean for the link!