Hate crime laws are notoriously problematic because they target particular offender motivations. To enforce these laws, law enforcement officials must have some access to an offender's motive for committing a crime. The requirements for proof of motive differ from state to state, with some states requiring evidence that the offender targeted the victim out of prejudice, bigotry, or hostility for a group of which the victim was a member, and others requiring only evidence that the offender intentionally selected his or her victim from a particular group.Not only do states vary in their definition of what constitutes a hate crime, but they vary in the number of protected classes. Not all states, for example, include sexual orientation. A handy chart of varying categories is provided here [pdf].
Last, punishment enhancements differ greatly.
Some states impose mandatory minimums for hate crimes, while others mandate the addition of a set amount of time (e.g., two years) to a sentence if a crime was motivated by hate. Still others multiply a sentence (e.g., doubling or even tripling it) or require that the offense be classified at a level of seriousness that is higher than the level for the underlying offense.In the absence of federal legislation clearly mandating a specific form of hate crime statute, or acceptable forms of punishment, or the proper designation of protected classes, it's up to the states, as "laboratories of democracy," to work out their own laws, while Is this just? That's for you to decide--and argue.