Anti-hate crimes legislation clears Judiciary Committee, heads for House consideration

Bill sponsors Frankel, Nelson hail vote as progress for PA

HARRISBURG, May 24 – Legislation to expand and strengthen Pennsylvania’s anti-hate crimes statutes was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, marking the first legislative step forward in two decades to address the universally recognized increase in hate-based crimes.

Reps. Dan Frankel and Napoleon Nelson, original sponsors of the four-bill package, applauded their committee colleagues' support and vowed to keep advocating for the legislation until it becomes law.

“Hate crimes are on the rise, and every day that Pennsylvania’s laws are left unequipped to deal with them is a day that those who would use violence and intimidation to diminish our vulnerable communities are further emboldened,” Frankel said. “Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted for a commonwealth that stands with vulnerable communities and aspires to promote diversity and tolerance.”

Frankel noted that once the bills become law, Pennsylvania will join the majority of states that acknowledge the growing scourge of attacks on Americans for who they are, how they look or who they love.

Nelson said, “This legislative package is of vital importance. As hate crimes increase across the country, we must protect those who are most vulnerable. I’m happy to have sponsored these pieces of legislation and look forward to doing more to ensure that everyone – regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability status – feels safe and respected.”

The legislative package includes:

  • H.B. 1027New Protections under Ethnic Intimidation Statute (Frankel, Nelson). Would amend Pennsylvania’s Ethnic Intimidation Statute to ensure protections for victims targeted because of the race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or disability of any person or group. Would also provide victims with a civil cause of action against offenders and people who solicit or aid offenders. Passed 12-9.
  • H.B. 1025Reporting System for Educational Institutions (Nelson, Frankel, Costa). Would require postsecondary institutions to offer online and anonymous hate crime reporting options for students and employees. Would also encourage training for K-12 school employees in identifying and addressing hate incidents. Passed 12-9.
  • H.B. 1026Education for Hate Crime Offenders (Frankel, Nelson, Costa). Would provide a mechanism by which an individual convicted of a hate crime could perform community service or complete educational classes relating to the motivating factor of the underlying crime. Passed 12-9.
  • H.B. 1024Hate Crime Training for Law Enforcement (Frankel, Nelson, Costa). Would provide our law enforcement officials with the tools they need to properly investigate, identify and report hate crimes. Passed 12-9.

Legislation to expand protections to cover LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities was signed into law by a Republican governor more than 20 years ago, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the changes unconstitutional on technical grounds in 2008.

Companion legislation has been introduced by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. The legislative districts of Rep. Frankel and Sen. Costa cover the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where 11 people were killed in their synagogues by an antisemitic gunman on Oct. 27, 2018.