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?
Please join Keystone Progress in calling for the reinstatement the amendments to PA's hate crimes law by clicking here.