Anti-hate crimes proposals have been around for a long time in Pennsylvania, but the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh inspired us to go back to the drawing board and create four bills that would not only update Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute to be fully inclusive of all protected identity characteristics, but also prioritize education and training to improve reporting and center the voices of impacted communities in the courtroom.
The FBI’s most recent report on hate crimes revealed not only the highest number of reported crimes in more than two decades, but also that hate crime offenses across the country were more violent than in previous years.
We can – and must – do better.
We cannot legislate what is in people’s hearts. But we can take steps to lead by example and ensure that mechanisms are in place to support targeted communities across Pennsylvania who are impacted hate-fueled criminal acts. And we can send a message to those who would target others simply because of their protected identities – that we, as a society, will not tolerate such acts and will stand with those impacted.
We propose enacting a robust update to Pennsylvania’s hate crimes laws by expanding the list of protected identity characteristics to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, giving targets of hate crimes stronger civil remedies in the courtroom, increasing training for police and educators, encouraging the reporting of hate-based incidents in schools, and providing a mechanism by which those convicted of hate crimes can perform community service or attend classes related to the motivating factor in the crime.