Boyle, Murt tout bill to strengthen hate crimes law in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Oct. 24 – Joined by Democrats and Republicans from the Senate and House, state Reps. Kevin J. Boyle, D-Phila., and Tom Murt, R-Montgomery/Phila., called upon the General Assembly during a Capitol news conference to pass legislation to strengthen the hate crimes law in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 505, co-sponsored by Boyle and Murt, would amend current state law to expand the offense of ethnic intimidation to include malicious intention against the actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity of another person or a group of people.

Senators Lawrence Farnese and Anthony Williams also have legislation (S.B. 96) regarding hate crimes.

Boyle said under H.B. 505, a crime motivated by hatred toward these protected classes would be graded one degree higher than already specified in law.

“Pennsylvania’s lack of protections against hate crimes for LGBT communities and persons with disabilities is a national embarrassment. We remain the only state in the Northeast to not enshrine protections against hate crimes for these groups into law,” Boyle said. “I have introduced this bill for two consecutive sessions to add these protections but it has never been brought to a vote. Our legislature is failing its duty to protect the citizens of this commonwealth, and ignoring the constitutional rights of the physically and intellectually disabled, and the LGBT communities.”

Boyle added he introduced similar legislation during the 2015-16 legislative session after a group of friends taunted and physically attacked a same-sex couple in Center City Philadelphia in 2014.

Two of the attackers pleaded guilty and accepted a plea deal while a third person went on trial and was found guilty of assault and reckless endangerment.

“Many believe, and I agree, that the horrible attack perpetrated by that group was a hate crime,” Boyle said. “Unfortunately, the current law did not give Philadelphia’s district attorney the opportunity to charge these attackers with a hate crime. We need to rectify Pennsylvania's hate crimes law now before another horrific hate crime goes unpunished.”

“By expanding the groups covered by hate crime laws, we are telling everyone that their human and constitutional rights are sacrosanct, and those who attempt to cripple those rights will face the full force of the law,” Murt said.

State Rep. Brian Sims, a co-sponsor of H.B. 505 and supporter of protection for LGBT Pennsylvanians, echoed Murt’s comment.

“Last week, we witnessed the common and callous contempt for LGBT Pennsylvanians when a senator launched an attack on the well-being of innocent trans youth. This hateful motivation is not exclusive to the legislature as it impacts thousands of our constituents across the commonwealth on a daily basis,” Sims said. “At a time when attacks on transgender people, especially transgender women of color, are at all-time highs, it is imperative we swiftly pass Representatives Boyle and Murt’s legislation.”