State lawmakers and advocates are calling for an expansion of commonwealth law against hate crimes in order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.
At rally at the Capitol Tuesday, advocates said the statute should protect LGBT residents, just as it protects people based race, ethnicity, or religion.
“We are here today because hate crimes are different from other crime,” said Ted Martin, head of EqualityPA. “Hate crimes – like the one inflicted on a Philadelphia couple two weeks ago – don’t just affect the victims of that crime. Hate crimes affect an entire community.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he supports changing the hate crimes statute. City District Attorney Seth Williams pressed charges Tuesday against two men and one woman in connection with the Sept. 11 assault on the Center City couple.
Democratic state Rep. Brendan Boyle, a candidate for Congress, said extending hate crime protections to LGBT Pennsylvanians would boost penalties for aggressors.
“It increases the sentence, and it’s actually an extra crime that attackers can be charged with,” Boyle said. “This can already happen right now if you commit a hate crime based on race or ethnicity or religion, but sexual orientation is not included in that list.”
A 2002 change to the state’s hate crimes law did protect people based on sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. It was struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2008. Supporters say the law was rejected on a technicality.