What makes a hate crime

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Even before Stephen White succumbed on Saturday to injuries sustained in the fire and attack at the Battleground Inn, a give and take played out in local social-media circles.

White, 46, was assaulted and set on fire in the hotel room he occupied with 26-year-old city of Greensboro employee Garry Gupton — the two met at the gay bar Chemistry a few miles away earlier in the evening in what seemed like a fairly unremarkable encounter.

The controversy is over the nature of the murder. Many people feel that this should be classified as a hate crime, which carries steeper penalties. Some feel that the hate crime itself is an unnecessary enhancement.

But hate crimes are different. Most violent crime, particularly murder, happens between people who know each other, and generally for a reason: Curtis assaults Larry for sleeping with his wife.

But when Jared decides he’s going to assault a Muslim — any Muslim he comes across — Jared is a greater danger to the public than the lovelorn Curtis. Presumably only Larry is in danger when Curtis is on the loose, but no one with brown skin and a beard is safe when Jared gets going.

The Greensboro Police Department did not classify the White murder as a hate crime, and there are two reasons for that.

A good deal of it hinges on what transpired that night. Was Gupton looking to assault any gay man he could lure to a second location, or was it about something that transpired between the two of them?

Another thing we have yet to determine is if Gupton is, in fact, a gay man.

But the main reason there won’t be any hate-crime charges in this one is that, though North Carolina does have hate-crime legislation on the books, its protection only extends so far as race, religion and nationality. The state does not recognize gender identity or sexual orientation as targets of hate.

Seems like a pretty glaring omission to us.