Constitutional questions about hate crime laws in the United States were settled in the early 1990s. Yet, critics persist in arguing that the laws punish "improper thinking." In this context, this article addresses the question of the justification of punishing motivation—or bias—behind hate crimes when the type of expression and the thought behind it used to indicate motivation are largely protected. There has been considerable legal scholarship on this question but little empirical investigation of how supporters of legislation respond to the question. The article draws from in-depth interviews carried out with a purposive sample of "elite" informants in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1999. A key theme that emerged was that alleged greater harms inflicted by hate crimes—over and above the harms inflicted by the same underlying but otherwise motivated crimes—justify greater punishment. A conceptualization is provided of alleged harms involved.