A Sept. 11 attack in Rittenhouse on a gay couple led to rallies and public outcry over the fact that such an attack was not legally a “hate crime,” as it is in many other states.
On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council took matters into its own hands, passing a new hate crimes bill that enhances the punishment for crimes that are motivated by dislike of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“For those of us who don’t understand acceptance, there is now a price to be paid,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who co-sponsored the bill along with Councilman Jim Kenney. “We’re not going to wait for the state to do whatever it needs to do when we see grievances like this in our city.”
The bill enhances the punishment for crimes by adding a 90-day sentence and a $2,000 fine to “hate crimes.”
Three suspects in the September gay attack are charged with aggravated assault and awaiting trial.
Brown pointed out that the suspects were all in their 20s.
“The one thing I was struck by in that shameful video is they were not people who are 60-70 years old, who came through the Civil Rights Era but still have hate in their heart. They were in their 20s,” she said. “Children do not show up in the world with hate in their heart. … These young people learned hate. So this law is not just for bullies, it’s also for parents of bullies.”
Pennsylvania’s ethnic intimidation law does not list sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.
A law making anti-gay crimes a hate crime was struck down on a technicality in 2008.
Rep. Brendan Boyle has introduced legislation, currently pending, to renew that law.