Democrats Propose Strongest Hate Crimes Laws in the Nation
Lawmakers seek to combat surge in hate crimes since the 2016 election
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee—Senator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) and Representative William Tong (D-Stamford)—today introduced a comprehensive proposal to strengthen Connecticut’s hate crime laws, making them the strongest in the nation.
In recent months, incidents of hate including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh- Americans, transgender women and others in Connecticut and across America.
“This recent, alarming surge in hate crimes must be met with a strong and clear response,” said Sen. Looney. “We will have zero tolerance and punish these crimes to their fullest extent. When a bomb threat is made against a religious community center, a religious cemetery is desecrated, a mosque is vandalized, or women and the LGBT community are specifically targeted, these are crimes that affect not just the members of the building and the cemetery that is threatened or vandalized, but which affect all members of protected groups in our society. Our hate crimes proposal will make Connecticut the national leader in the fight against these despicable acts, and it will serve as a model for other states looking to combat hate crimes based on bigotry and bias.”
“It is extremely important that we act quickly to send a strong message and renounce hate in all its forms,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “Connecticut will stand united against these acts of violence, intimidation and other cowardly tactics. We must not allow a culture that fosters fear and persecution to develop in Connecticut.”
“We’ve been seeing a disturbing increase in hate crimes and related incidents, and this can and must be stopped,” said Rep. Tong. “Strengthening our laws and toughening the penalties for these despicable behaviors is something we can do immediately. In the long term, we may also want to consider new programs for educating the public. When someone becomes the target of a crime because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, the very fabric of our democracy is torn. This cannot be tolerated.”
“In the current climate of increased religious hate crimes around the country, it is critical that we respond legislatively to this unacceptable increase in hate crimes,” said Sen. Doyle. “It’s crucial that we strengthen our hate crime laws to adequately punish those individuals who commit these horrific crimes, and that we send a message to others who are contemplating committing such cowardly acts.”
“ADL commends Senator Looney and his co-sponsors for their leadership on this issue, and we welcome the timely introduction of this bill,” said Steve Ginsberg , Director of the Anti-Defamation League for the Connecticut Region. “Hate crimes have a unique nature and impact on victims, communities and society as a whole. All states can and should do more to address bias-motivated violence, and that is exactly what Connecticut will accomplish with this legislation. This bill will help increase reporting, ensure enforcement, and take steps to deter hate crimes from occurring. At a time where fear of bias-motivated crimes is on the rise, if passed into law, this bill will send a powerful message to all residents that hate crimes will be taken seriously and will not be tolerated.”
“The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund applauds lawmakers for advancing legislation to strengthen and modernize Connecticut’s hate crimes laws,” said Catherine Bailey, Deputy Director, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. “Threats, intimidation and harassment made on the basis of one’s race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression are unacceptable, and it’s imperative to add sex and gender to hate crime protections. Women experience an alarming rate of harassment and violence each day—often motivated by bias—resulting in devastating consequences to victims. It’s time to take steps to curb such hateful acts and to protect the citizens of Connecticut.”
“For centuries, our communities have been targeted because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, immigration status or religious beliefs. And the harsh reality is that our current political climate has amplified many racist and xenophobic sentiments and the occurrence of hate crimes in our country, and that has created fear for many in our communities,” said Sandra Trevino, Executive Director of Junta for Progressive Action. “Now more than ever, we need our elected officials to stand up, to distinctly denounce these crimes, and to actively work to prevent them.”
“As the number of hate crimes against Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities rise, there is a critical need to appropriately classify such crimes as felonies,” said Farhan Memon, Chairperson of The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Connecticut. “We are a multi-religious society, so an attack against one of our houses of worship is an attack against us all. Ensuring that our laws reflect this principle is essential.”
- 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.”
- Strengthens hate crime laws by punishing attempts to commit them, by including in the 2nd-degree hate crime statute attempts to damage, destroy or deface property.
- 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, and requires such fines to be deposited into a fund for anti-hate crime education initiatives.
- Creates a state-wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council.
- Creates and publicizes a hate crimes hot line and a text line for reporting incidents of harassment or intimidation of minority groups in the state.
- Allows an employee to take up to 16 hours of job-protected leave in one year if the employee has to leave work due to an evacuation of his or her child’s school or day care facility.
2015 Hate Crime Statistics in Connecticut (FBI UCR data)
- 94 hate-related incidents reported by law enforcement agencies
- 66 percent were based on the race, ethnicity, or ancestry of the victim(s)
- 20 percent were based on the religion of the victim(s)
- 10 percent were based on the sexual orientation of the victim(s)
- 4 percent were based on the disability of the victim(s)
2015 Hate Crime Statistics in America (FBI UCR data)
- 5,850 hate-related incidents (covering 6,885 offenses) reported by law enforcement agencies
- 56 percent were based on the race, ethnicity, or ancestry of the victim(s)
- 21 percent were based on the religion of the victim(s)
- 19 percent were based on the gender identity of the victim(s)
- 18 percent were based on the sexual orientation of the victim(s)
- 12 percent were based on the disability of the victim(s)
- 0.4 percent were based on the “gender” (male or female) of the victim(s)
- Figures exceed 100 percent because some incidents involved crimes against a victim in more than one protected class.