Pennsylvania state legislature advances LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill

Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Legislation to expand Pennsylvania‘s hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity advanced in the state legislature on Monday.

Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg.

In a bipartisan vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved the measure 19-4 following a renewed push Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), the bill’s sponsor, in the wake of a brutal attack last month on a same-sex couple.

“Today’s passage of my legislation expanding Pennsylvania’s hate crimes definition to include sexual orientation marks a historic turn in our Commonwealth’s policies,” said Boyle, in a statement.

“The willingness of both Democratic and Republican leadership to come together in the wake of the tragic beatings in Philadelphia has pushed this important legislation a significant step closer to passage before session ends this year,” he said.

The legislation amends the Pennsylvania Crime Code, expanding the offense 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.

“We must now bring House Bill 177 up for a vote of the full membership and once and for all expand our hate crimes law to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are afforded dignity, peace, and security – regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation.”

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On Sept. 11, a group of young adults are alleged to have brutally beaten a gay couple they encountered on a Philadelphia street.

After a number of possible suspects were identified by internet sleuths using police released surveillance video and a photograph taken at a nearby restaurant the night of the attack, police say they could be ready to make arrests this week.

While the incident has been widely reported as a hate crime, Pennsylvania state law does not include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Boyle first introduced the bill in January 2013.

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