Virginia had 20+ anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in 2014 and a new bill aims to make sure those crimes are reported
A Northern Virginia Delegate was among the first to introduce legislation for the upcoming 2016 General Assembly session, and one of his first bills aims to expand the state’s list of protected classes from hate-crime reporting.
Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) sponsored HB35, which aims to add sexual orientation and “gender identification” to the state’s list of protected class for hate crimes to be reported by state police to the FBI.
Currently, the state only requires police departments to report hate crimes if they are committed against someone for their ”race, religion or ethnic origin or that is committed for the purpose of restraining that person from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States”
Del. Sullivan has worked to pass this legislation in the past, but he said this year he was more optimistic about it getting to the House floor.
“I sensed some receptivity from the committee last year, but I just wasn’t able to get it past the goal line,” he said about his 2014 bill which would have accomplished the same thing. That bill made it out of the Senate, but failed to get past the House committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.
“The country and Virginia have made a lot of progress over the last 1-3 years. And I hope, in a post [marriage equality] world, that this issue could very well finally make its way… to the governor’s desk,” he said. Sullivan called the bill a small but important step toward the broader issue of hate crimes affecting the LGBTQ community.
The Delegate said he’d received support from Virginia State Police on the bill in past, but VSP could not confirm any legislative action as of press time.
In 2014, an average of about 20% of hate crimes were committed nationally were against people because of who they love or how they identify.
A total of 5,479 hate crime incidents involving 6,418 offenses were reported to the FBI as part of the Uniform Hate Crime Program in 2015. The UHC program was started in 1930 as a way to for members of the public to see national crime statistics.
Reporting of hate crimes to the FBI is voluntary, but Virginia State police do already report this information.
The Commonwealth had a total of 22 hate crimes against people for their sexual orientation in 2014 as reported by Virginia State Police.
“This is as much a law enforcement bill as it is an LGBT bill,” Sullivan said. According to the delegate, it’s important data for law enforcement and his bill would just “align the code with what Virginia law enforcement is already doing.”
Sullivan is ready for those who he thinks might fight him on the bill’s passage and he plans to “dissuade any detractors that this represents some major shift or radical idea.”
“This is not an attempt by me to suggest the legislature is condoning any kind of lifestyle,” he said, noting that anyone familiar with conservative GA members knows they have frequent complaints over LGBTQ inclusive laws.
He also stressed this bill would not give local prosecutors the ability to prosecute hate crimes, but rather this bill would be an “incremental step.”
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