Pennsylvania Senator Jim Ferlo formally told the world that he was gay while speaking at a rally in support of changing the state’s hate crime law.
Ferlo and Representative Brian Sims of Philadelphia, who is also a member of the LGBT community, were speaking in Harrisburg to help push support for Senate Bill 42 and House Bill 177, which would expand Pennsylvania’s hate crime law to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, reported the Huffington Post (9.23.14).
A speedy passage of the bill was desired. On a September 11, a brutal gay bashing occurred in City Center Philadelphia. The attack left two men hospitalized. On September 24, NBC News (9.24.14) reported that three people were charged for the attack on the two gay men. One woman and two men face aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy and reckless endangerment charges. However, there will be no hate crime charges despite allegations that the group was “screaming homophobic slurs” during the attack. Pennsylvania’s current hate crime law does not recognize hate crimes as LGBT-inclusive.
Pennsylvania law defines hate crime offenses as crimes motivated by “malicious intention toward the race, color, religion or national origin” of a person or group. In other words, attacks based on sexual orientation are not considered hate crimes.
Ferlo is likely Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state senator. Sims became the state’s first openly gay legislator to be elected when he won his seat in 2012.
The FBI defines a hate crime as ““criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” State laws on hate crimes vary. Current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person’s protected characteristics of disability, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In New York, hate crimes are defined because their victims were targeted due to their real or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
According to the Hate Crime Statistics Program of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, in 2012 were 1376 reported hate crime offenses committed due to a sexual-orientation bias. Victims of an offender’s anti-male homosexual bias totaled 53.9 percent of this number. Victims of an anti-homosexual bias made up 28.6 percent.
The Huffington Post article is “’I’m Gay. Get Over It,’ State Senator Announces During Push For LGBT Hate Crimes Bill.”