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Politics & Government

Two Bills Could Change What Pennsylvania Classifies As A Hate Crime

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Rep. Dan Frankel at a press conference on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, surrounded by a number of Pittsburgh's religious and community leaders.

In the wake of Charlottesville, a Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to extend what qualifies as a hate crime in the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 96 and House Bill 505 would extend existing hate crime protections to victims facing intimidation based on actual or perceived ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. 

Pennsylvania's current hate crime law protects individuals based only on their race, religion and country of origin. Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) said these bills should be a priority after Charlottesville, noting "no group was left untouched" by the vitriol of the "Unite the Right" demonstration.

"We saw a comprehensive expression of hate, so we want a comprehensive reaction to it," Frankel said. " One of the ways to do that is to finally address hate crimes in Pennsylvania in a comprehensive way."

Both bills have been sitting in committee since February, and they've seen no movement since. Frankel urged legislative leaders in Harrisburg to bring the bills to the floor so state leaders can stand by their most marginalized constituents.

"We need to express our concern and outrage in a way that's constructive and makes something happen in our community and state that shows we're tolerant, we're accepting and we will reject acts of hate that we saw in Charlottesville," he said.

Both bills are backed by a bipartisan team of lawmakers.