Support the Expansion of Protections Under the Pa. "Hate Crimes" Law

There is no room for intolerance in Pennsylvania. Please show your support by pushing for expansion of the "hate crimes" law.

Just as Pennsylvania was founded on the principles of liberty and tolerance, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long-standing history of support for the protection and equal treatment under the law for all citizens. Senate Bill 96 and House Bill 505, seeking to expand the definition of ethnic intimidation, follow in that same tradition.

These bills, introduced by Sen. Larry Farnese (D - District 1) and Rep. Kevin J. Boyle (D - District 172), and cosponsored by a limited group of other state representatives, seek to expand the definition 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 toward these protected classes would be graded higher than specified under current law.

The Pennsylvania Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act was amended in 2002 to add protections for ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity to those already in place for race, color, religion and national origin. But those amendments were overturned in 2007 on procedural grounds. Amendments have been proposed at various times since 2007, but they have languished without enough support to become law.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeastern United States that has a law that addresses hate or bias crimes, but which does not address sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. There is no more urgent time for that to change than now. With the recent display of hatred and bigotry in Charlottesville, Va., it is vital that we expand the definition of ethnic intimidation to protect all of our citizens and demonstrate that there is no place for intolerance in Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia Bar Association urges its members to contact their state legislators to discuss with them the need to support Senate Bill 96 and House Bill 505. A personal contact, either face-to-face or by telephone, can be highly persuasive. A persuasive letter similar to the one on our Action site is another effective tool to get your point across. Be sure to personalize the letter to increase the likelihood that your point of view will be noticed. Take action today on the issues that will make Pennsylvania a better place for all living in or visiting the Commonwealth.

SEND A LETTER TO YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS