You can sign the “Change PA Hate Crime Law to include Sexual Orientation” petition all you want, but the real change is going to have to come from within the Pennsylvania state legislature. The good news is that there’s already a bill that’s been introduced to do it. The bad news is that it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes it takes a horribly negative experience to get people out of their seats, for them to be active and engaged,” says State Representative Brian Sims of his colleagues in Harrisburg. “It’s not necessarily because they’re opposed but because they aren’t aware of the need. So we are going to be sure to utilize this horrible event to make sure that they hear about it. I’m going to be bringing two people with me who will be able to tell them all about it.”
Sims says that he hasn’t yet spoken with the victims of last week’s Center City attack of two gay men, simply because he’s been told that they need time to heal. “I want them speaking with victims’ advocates right now, not with me over policy,” he explains. “But we’ll find the time. I have to make sure that something comes of this, not just that I’m pissed off.”
The bill in question, seen below, was introduced during the 2013 session and likely won’t see any activity until 2015. Sexual orientation was part of our hate crime statute from 2002 until 2008, when the Supreme Court decided that the inclusion of sexual orientation was unconstitutional. The new bill would add gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical and mental disability to the hate crime law.