Friday, July 25, 2008

Ethnic Intimidation Act Struck Down by PA Supreme Court

From our friends at Equality Advocates:
On July 23, 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a Commonwealth Court decision striking down the amendments to the state's hate crimes law that added sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, gender, and mental and physical disability in 2002. The law was overturned based on the procedural way the legislation was passed by the legislature, not the content of the law.
The law, known as the Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act, was amended to include protections for these groups of people by a two-thirds majority of the state House of Representatives and Senate. The legislation was signed into law by Republican Governor Mark Schweiker.
Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, then known as the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, worked to pass this legislation with our coalition partners and drafted the bill's text. "We are extremely disappointed that some of the most vulnerable people in Pennsylvania are now unprotected by our state's hate crimes law. I urge the legislature to once again pass this legislation with all deliberate speed." Equality Advocates will work to reinstate these groups to the Pennsylvania hate crimes law.
Stephen Glassman, the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, added, "We will continue to work with the legislature to pass amendments to the existing Ethnic Intimidation Act which will mirror the language of the bill which was overturned by the Commonwealth Court on a technicality. It is vitally important for our agency to be able to respond to every act of hate and bias in the Commonwealth no matter who the victim may be. We must protect the rights of people to be free from these hate crimes just as surely as we protect them on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin."

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