Council committee unanimously passes hate-crimes bill

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A Philadelphia City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously adopted a measure that would instate penalties for offenders who commit anti-LGBT hate crimes in the city.

The Public Safety Committee voted the measure, sponsored by Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Jim Kenney, out of committee and it will get a first reading before the full Council on Thursday. Then, the public will be given a week to submit comments before a second reading will occur and a final vote can be taken.

Public Safety Committeemembers include chair Curtis Jones, vice chair Bobby Henon and members Mark Squilla, Dennis O’Brien, Kenyatta Johnson, Marian Tasco and Jannie Blackwell. 

The legislation was introduced after last month’s brutal attack on a gay couple in Center City. Three suspects were arrested but cannot be charged with a hate crime, as the state’s hate-crime law was stripped of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as disability, protections several years ago because of a technicality. 

The council measure would amend the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance to add hate-crimes protection for crimes motivated by one’s sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.  Such crimes would be punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.