June 7, 2017

Bye Joins Unanimous Senate Vote to Pass Strongest Hate Crimes Law in America

State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) joined a unanimous and bipartisan vote in the Senate today to approve a comprehensive bill aimed at strengthening Connecticut’s hate crime laws, making them the strongest in the nation.

“The history of protections under the law for violent acts against various groups goes back decades in America, from Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1968 to Bill Clinton’s Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996,” Sen. Bye said. “Today, in the face of increasing acts of violence against Muslims, Indian-Americans, the homeless, transgender citizens and others, Connecticut is once again putting itself at the forefront of the national response to violent intolerance. Connecticut will always respect free speech, but we will never tolerate hate speech or hate crimes, and today’s bipartisan action in the Senate reflects our unified commitment to protect and value all our citizens.”

Over the last year, the United States has endured incidents of hate including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism that have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu- Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh-Americans, transgender women and others.

The bill passed today in the state Senate:

  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual.)
  • Strengthens and modernizes Connecticut’s hate crime laws to include hate crimes based on gender (sex). Current law protects only “gender identity or expression,” not gender.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing the penalty to a Class C felony (from a Class D felony) for making a bomb threat or other threat of violence against a house of worship, religious community center or other religious institution—or any daycare facility—if the threat is made with the intent to terrorize another person or to cause the evacuation of the building or grounds. This puts the penalty for such bomb threats on par with threats made against schools.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing the penalty for desecrating any house of worship or any religious cemetery from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony if there is more than $10,000 in damage, or a Class D felony if there is less than $10,000 in damage.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by expanding the threshold for a 1st-degree hate crime from its current requirement of causing “serious physical injury” to instead causing “physical injury.”
  • Establishes a court’s power to order extensive, relevant community service and/or restitution, in addition to any other penalties imposed for hate crime convictions.
  • Establishes a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes.
  • Creates a state-wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council.

“On behalf of ADL leadership and supporters in Connecticut and across our nation, I wish to express profound gratitude to the Connecticut legislature,” said Steve Ginsburg, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League—Connecticut Region. “ADL drafted the first-ever model hate crimes statute, and now welcomes the passage of this bill, with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses, which will set an example for how—when unified—we can protect minorities, ensure our freedoms and strengthen democracy. Our state already had relatively strong hate crimes protections, but today our leaders made clear that when incidents of bias and hate are on the rise, good enough isn’t good enough. Protecting community centers, including gender as a protected category, and enhancing penalties makes all Connecticut residents and their communities safer and sets a proud example for our children. ADL will keep pushing until all 50 states have hate crimes laws, and we look forward to being a part of our state’s new Hate Crimes Advisory Council.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his consideration.