PA House Judiciary Committee Advances Hate Crimes Bill

Moments ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted on HB 177 , the LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The bill was reported out of committee in a 19-4 vote. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170) introduced the bill and it will now move directly to the full House. The Speaker of the House has not made any indication if he will run the bill this session. There are only five more scheduled legislative voting days this year.

The legislation also adds protections based on ancestry, and for people with mental or physical disabilities. Additionally, the bill grants protections on the basis of actual or perceived identities.

This is only the second time an LGBT rights bill has been up for a legislative committee vote in 12 years. HB 300 was reported out of the House State Government Committee in 2010 under then-Committee Chair Rep. Babette Josephs (D-182).

An LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill was introduced by Rep. Linda Cohen (R-148) and passed in 2002, but was struck down in 2008 due to a Pennsylvania constitutional rule. There were concerns expressed by some representatives about the scope of hate crimes legislation, but many showed resounding support this afternoon.

Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-190) expressed how important it is to “step up and take action.” Rep. Madeline Dean (D-153) made several pointed comments throughout the meeting. She remarked that these crimes are “so insidious, [they are] against what this commonwealth should be about…but for the hate of these people, these crimes would not take place. We must get at the root nature of these crimes.”

Several of the legislators who voted against the bill spoke out about not feeling that they had enough time to prepare for an informed vote. House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Ron Marsico (R-105) pushed back in affirming that all members have had ample time to review the bill over the weekend. HB 177, which has been introduced four times in the House since 2008, was placed on the committee’s voting calendar on Friday.

Here is a breakdown of the vote:

Voted in Favor of HB 177: Marsico, Delozier, Grell, Hackett, O’Neill, Regan, Stephens, Toepel, Toohil, Caltagirone, Barbin, Brown, Bradford, Costa, Dean, Kula, Neuman, Sabatina, White

Voted Against HB 177: Cutler, Ellis, Rock (proxy), Saccone

PSEC leaders communicated with several of the committee members leading up to the meeting, urging them to vote in favor of the bill. PSEC leaders were present at the committee meeting, sitting with Rep. Brendan Boyle as the bill was called up.

The Keystone Student Voice will report on updates as to how the hate crimes legislation continues to advance in the Pennsylvania legislature.

PSEC thanks Rep. Brendan Boyle for his strong commitment to moving this critical legislation forward in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

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