Jim Kenney calls for federal hate crime charges, state law changes

City Councilman Jim Kenney. Credit: Wiki Commons. City Councilman Jim Kenney. Credit: Wiki Commons.

City Councilman Jim Kenney has a message for bigots.

“If you are homophobic or a racist, and you’re from the suburbs or from outside the city, we really don’t want you here,” Kenney said at a council meeting Thursday morning.

As of Thursday afternoon police had yet to arrest any members of the group of alleged suburbanites whobrutally beat two gay men on a Center City street last week. Police said the group used anti-gay slurs during the attack.

“We don’t want you to use our restaurants, we don’t want you walk our streets, we don’t want you to enjoy our city life,” Kenney added. “We can live without you.”

Kenney sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger Thursday asking that, once arrested, federal charges be brought against the attackers under theMatthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,because Pennsylvania does not have a provision in its hate crime code dealing with sexual orientation.

“And that says a lot about our state,” he said.”But it doesn’t mean that people in our city should not be protected under federal law from assault and mayhem based on their sexual orientation.”

The Shepard/Byrd Act, passed in 2009, includes assaults and crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Pennsylvania hate crime laws only includes crimes motivated by the victim’s religion, race or ethnicity.

“They were beaten primarily because of who they are, who they were born to be,” Kenney said. “Police on the scene thought someone had been shot there was so much blood at the crime scene.”

State Rep. Brendan Boyle recently introduced a bill to add “sexual orientation” to the protected classes under the law.

Kenney was asked whether something could get done on the state level in the next few years.

“As long as we have the (US Rep.) Daryl Metcalfe’s (R-Butler County) of the world, you’re not going to see much movement,” he said.

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

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