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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 16, 2014 10:18 AM
From: Representative Kevin J. Boyle and Rep. Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Hate Crimes Expansion
In the very near future, we will be introducing legislation to amend Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses), Section 2710 (Ethnic Intimidation), of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes 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 individual or group of individuals. A crime motivated by hatred towards these protected classes would be graded one degree higher than already specified in law. A summary offense would be graded as a misdemeanor of the third degree. The offense of ethnic intimidation is already defined to include malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin of an individual or group of individuals.

Sadly, on September 11, 2014, a young gay couple was viciously attacked by a group of young men and women in the Center City section of Philadelphia. Someone in the group asked if the men were "boyfriends," according to police, and made "disparaging remarks" about gay people before attacking the victims, kicking them in the head, chest, and face. One of the men had to undergo surgery and have his jaw wired shut; the other suffered bone fractures and cuts to his face.

As you may know, Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law had protected individuals based on their actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Act 143 of 2002 was unconstitutional on July 23, 2008, and this language was removed from the Crimes Code. The court’s ruling had nothing to do with the merits of the hate crimes law; rather, the decision found that the original bill, House Bill 1493, was amended so as to change its original purpose; therefore, the enactment of House Bill 1493, violated Article III Section I of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Many believe, and we agree, that the recent horrible attack that took place in Philadelphia was a hate crime. Unfortunately, while Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams shares that opinion, our current state law does not give him the opportunity to charge the attackers with a hate crime. Please join us in co-sponsoring this much needed legislation so we can once again change Pennsylvania’s hate crime law.

Introduced as HB218