STATEMENT: FL Senate Committee Approves Update to State Hate Crimes Legislation

FL Senate Committee Approves Update to State Hate Crimes Legislation
Adds gender and gender identity, expands disability coverage

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - Today the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed by a vote of 3 - 2 legislation that would provide essential updates to Florida’s hate crime statutes. As written, SB 588 by Senator Kevin Rader extends critical protections to both the disability and transgender communities and addresses “mixed motive” loop holes to address crimes that escalate to hate motivated attacks.  
Equality Florida applauds Chair Randolph Bracy and the majority on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee for today’s vote. 
Adding disability and gender-related hate crimes to Florida’s law is long overdue. The transgender community, especially transgender women of color, are disproportionately the targets of victims of hate-motivated violence,” said Equality Florida Government Affairs Manager Jon Harris Maurer.
The Florida Attorney General’s most recent report documents 124 reported hate crimes in 2016. That is a 21.6% increase from 2015. Due to gaps in Florida’s hate crime law, these statistics do not account for any hate crimes that were committed because of certain physical disabilities, gender, gender identity, or “mixed motive” hate crimes. 
Current state law related to hate-motivated crimes only protects people living with disabilities if they are “incapacitated” by the disability. While blind and deaf Floridians, for example, are protected by the Florida Civil Rights Act from discrimination in housing and employment, they are not afforded the same protections under state law if they are targeted for crimes or violence. SB 588 updates definitions of “disability” in Florida’s hate crimes statutes to align with definitions in the Florida Civil Rights Act and to include all people living with disabilities. Furthermore, the law’s omission of gender and gender identity does not conform to the federal hate crime law.  SB 588 closes these critical loopholes in Florida’s hate crime law and extends protection to some of the communities most at-risk for hate violence.


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