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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Pennsylvania House Passes Landmark Hate Crimes Legislation

Bill Adds Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender and Disability Protections

Pennsylvania State
Capitol Building
[HARRISBURG, PA] - Today, at 8:45 p.m., the Pennsylvania House passed legislation to amend the state's Ethnic Intimidation Act by adding actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, mental and physical disability, and ancestry to the existing law. This legislation is believed to be the most inclusive language of any hate crimes bill in the country.

The bill's passage was the result of a broad-based community effort from numerous organizations and individuals across the state strong bipartisan support from the leadership in the house.

The community effort was lead by: the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition (SPARC), the state's largest network of individuals and organizations dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) legislative advocacy; the Pennsylvania Gay and Lesbian Alliance (PA-GALA), the largest gay and lesbian political organization in the state; the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, the state's only LGBT legal aid and public policy organization; the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition, a statewide organization working for transgender rights; OUTFRONT a public education, legislative advocacy and political action organization, the Log Cabin Republicans of Pennsylvania, Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, parents, friends, families, of lesbians and gays, many LGBTA youth organizations along with a wide variety of student groups across the Commonwealth, among others.

A number of house members were instrumental in the bill's passage including several of the amendment's sponsors, including Steve Nickol, Pat Browne and Lita Cohen. The bill won passage by a 118 to 79 vote after two hours of discussion. "We are all gratified to see that, for the first time in Pennsylvania's history Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people will be equally protected under the law," said Steve Glassman, SPARC's co-chair.

Pennsylvania has joined 27 other states and the District of Columbia in extending hate crimes protections to gay, lesbian and bisexual people and the fifth state to add gender identity. Steve Black, political director of PA-GALA said, "Pennsylvania now has the most inclusive hate crimes law in the country - we applaud the legislature for taking this step to protect all Pennsylvanians from hate crimes."

Stacey L. Sobel, Esq., the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights' executive director, who drafted the bill's language added, "The legislators who voted for this bill stood up for their most vulnerable constituents and let it be known that we will not condone hate crimes in this state. When this legislation becomes the law, we will finally have the tools we need to aggressively prosecute these crimes and assist victims in Pennsylvania."

"Working together we have reminded the legislature that Pennsylvanians are decent people who want every person protected from hate violence", said Mara Keisling, co-chair of Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition.

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