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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 6, 2022 12:54 PM
From: Representative Kevin J. Boyle
To: All House members
Subject: Expanding Hate Crime Laws
Our hate crimes laws protects many classes of citizens from targeted violence based on their race, color nationality, or religion. Unfortunately, many vulnerable classes are left out from receiving this protection.  One tragic example came on September 11, 2014, when 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.

Many believe, and I agree, that the horrible attack that took place in Philadelphia was a hate crime. Unfortunately, while the Philadelphia District Attorney serving at the time of the attack shared that opinion, our current state law did not give him the opportunity to charge the attackers with a hate crime.

As you may know, Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law was amended to protect individuals based on their actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on July 23, 2008, that the enabling legislation was unconstitutional. Thus, the 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 to change its original purpose, thereby violating the Pennsylvania Constitution.

I am saddened that we still have not corrected this deficiency in Pennsylvania law to prevent future atrocities. As such, I will be re-introducing legislation – former House Bill 2620 of the 2021-2022 Legislative Session – 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.

It is my hope that this bill will help bring hate-motivated perpetrators to justice and help make Pennsylvania a safer and more welcoming place for all. Please join me by co-sponsoring this much needed legislation so we can change Pennsylvania’s hate crime law for the better.

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Introduced as HB736