BREAKING NEWS: PA House Judiciary Committee Passes LGBT-inclusive Hate Crimes Legislation

The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee today passed House Bill 745, legislation to amend the Title 18 Ethnic Intimidation Act to include protections for actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by a bipartisan 18-8 vote.

House Bill 745, introduced by Representative Josh Shapiro (D-153), would reinstate hate crime protections originally passed in 2002 for LGBT people, but that were later struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2008.

“This morning’s bipartisan vote shows that protecting each and every Pennsylvanian, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but rather a moral imperative for our entire Commonwealth,” said Jake Kaskey, Policy and Programs Director of Equality Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization. “Thousands of LGBT Pennsylvanians thank those elected officials that today stood up against violence motivated by hate.”

According to statistics compiled by Equality Pennsylvania, from 2006 to 2007 hate violence against LGBT people across Pennsylvania increased by 28 percent, and one report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates hate crimes targeted at LGBT Americans are under-reported by more than 30 percent. Since 2001, more than 420 people have called the legal hotline to report incidents of hate-incited violence, from every corner of the state.

“Today’s bipartisan vote was a significant step forward for Pennsylvania to ensure that hate violence perpetrated against our people and communities is not tolerated,” said Representative Josh Shapiro, prime sponsor of House Bill 745.

Equality Pennsylvania led member organizations of the Value All Families Coalition in engaging their elected Representatives and advocating for today’s vote. Over 50 organizations from across the Commonwealth support hate crime protections for LGBT people, and together this coalition worked tirelessly to see this bill passed. Thousands of letters and e-mails were sent to members of the Judiciary Committee in support of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians from all across the Commonwealth.

“Today’s vote is a huge step forward for all Pennsylvanians,” said Lynn Zeitlin, Executive Director of Equality Pennsylvania. “I look forward to the entire House passing this important legislation to protect all Pennsylvanians from hate violence.”

Today’s bipartisan vote brings hate crime protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians one step closer.

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