Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Take Action: Help Restore PA's Hate Crimes Law

When I was a boy growing up in Boston I had an older neighbor who was a little different. As a teenager Rick was outgoing, liked to dance and wore flamboyant outfits. Despite his clothing choices, he was popular with a lot of the boys in the neighborhood because he was a great dancer, and he was willing to teach us some basic moves so that we could go to the junior high dances and not look completely foolish.

One day I saw Rick walking by my house, but I didn't recognize him. His face was swollen, his nose was broken and he lhad ost some teeth. My mother said he was beaten up because he was "a queer." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew it was wrong to beat up somebody simply because he was a little different. I remember telling my mother that there should be a law to protect people like Rick.

In Pennsylvania, there was a law protecting people like Rick. It was an amendment to a law called the Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act, better known as the PA Hate Crimes Law. It was overwhelmingly passed in 2002 by Democrats and Republicans and signed into law by then-Governor Mark Schweiker. That bill extended protections against hate crimes for people based on their gender, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity and mental and physical disability.

But last month the PA Supreme Court struck down the law on a technicality, saying it was passed illegally.

That leaves Pennsylvanians in all of those categories vulnerable to hate crimes.I don't know about you, but I find that unacceptable. That's why we're calling on our State Senators and State Representatives to once again pass this legislation-and to do it right this time. Pennsylvania protects people based on their religion, race and ethnicity. Shouldn't we extend the same protections to people based on their gender, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity and mental and physical disability?

Michael Morrill

Keystone Progress


fstair said...

If the "queer" in your anecdote had won the fight, and for all we know, perhaps he did, and the other fellow was beaten for refusing your friend's advances, should your friend then be considered to have committed a "hate" crime? If you believe there are not some "tough" and aggressive "queers", then you have lived a queer reality.

If one person intentionally physically harms another, that's a hate crime, whatever the imagined origin of the hate, be it that the other was black, or white, or a bully or bullied, or queer or straight, or even a brother or a sister!

If you but read the newspaper, in the course of a few days you can read about an incredible litany of violence in every locale for an endless array of alleged grievances. This in an extremely violent and desensitized country, and instead of working to improve it you and yours just want to feel superior.

This is an exercise of collective hand-wringing by a group of the self righteous who want to impress the rest of us that they care more.

H. Lewis Allways said...

fstair, your hypothetical is a different situation which should be handled differently by law enforcement. If Rick had initiated the violence, naturally he would deserve to be held responsible. No one is saying that GLBT people deserve some special legal status. All we want is parity.

As the law stands now, Pennsylvania prosecutes hate crimes perpetrated based on the victim's ethnicity or religion. I am not thrilled with the legal concept of a hate crime to begin with, but if the state operates on that concept, it ought to acknowledge that hate crimes based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation should also be prosecuted. Anything less is discriminatory.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Lou Barlettas platform encourages ethnic hate. No shock his neck of the woods is producing pigs that are killing Latinos because they are "illegall aliens".

But when will anyone call Barletta out as a racist pig? Let alone a hypocrite since the city flag of Hazelton is the Italian flag. That happened from all the Italian imigrants "With out papers" who moved there decades ago.