Central PA's LGBT News Source
Nearly 40 people assembled in the Pennsylvania State Capital in Harrisburg to stand with three members of the legislature who introduced a comprehensive legislative package that modernizes how Pennsylvania monitors and responds to hate crimes.
State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), State Sen. Jay Costa, (D-Allegheny), and State Sen. Larry Farnese, (D-Phila.), were joined by State Rep. Ed Gainey (D-Allegheny); Eric Failing, PA Catholic Conference; Josh Sayles, Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh; Nancy Baron-Bear, Anti-Defamation League; Wasi Mohammed, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh; Navtej S. Grewal, Sikh Society of Harrisburg.
The package of bills includes disabled individuals and the LGBTQ community in the proposed hate crimes bills.
“Pennsylvania’s laws have not kept pace with modern society and need to be updated,” Frankel said. The package of bills would, besides expanding protections to cover individuals from the LGBTQ and disability communities, enhances training and resources for law enforcement; increase penalties for those convicted of a hate crime; provide for education to rehabilitate the convicted; and provide school and college students a method to anonymously report hate crimes and to stop harassment.
“An attack on an individual or group because of who they are or who they love victimizes both the immediate target of the crime and their larger community. It’s an attack on these groups’ sense of security and their connection to the world around them,” Frankel said. “The penalties that these perpetrators suffer should reflect both crimes – those against individual victims and the broader targeted community.”
The presence of so many Pittsburgh representatives reflects the recent one-year marking of the event (Oct. 27, 2018) when 11 Jewish worshippers were killed by an anti-Semitic gunman at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. “It was the darkest day in Pennsylvania history,” Frankel said of the violent incident, thought to be the worst anti-Semitic act of violence in U.S. history.
The Keystone State has the highest number of hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2018 report that counted 36 distinct hate groups as operational in Pennsylvania that year.
So far nationwide, 2019 has already seen "at least" 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Having tracked these deaths since 2015, HRC uses the descriptive term “at least” because “too often these stories go unreported - or misreported,” their report notes.
In 2018, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women, as there were in 2018, HRC reports.
The package of bills introduced include Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ community.
“I’m optimistic but realistic,” Frankel answered in response The Central Voice’s question if he expected pushback on the inclusion of the queer community. He noted from the podium that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, a member of the coalition of religious and other groups who collaborated on the legislative package, participated in “9 to 11 meetings” on forming the package.
The legislation also makes special note and inclusion of disabled individuals, a group often overlooked when it comes to hate violence but is also the target of hate and violence.