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Sen. Beth Bye Endorses Proposal to Create Strongest Hate Crimes Laws in the Nation

State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford).
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State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) today joined Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), advocates for tolerance and the Democratic leaders of the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee to introduce a comprehensive proposal to strengthen Connecticut’s hate crime laws, making them the strongest in the nation.

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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 West Hartford, in Connecticut and across America.

“The Jewish Community Center in West Hartford has been the subject of a bomb threat, as has the Hebrew High School of New England across the street. Gravestones have been destroyed at the Zion Hill Cemetery in Hartford. ‘Make America White Again’ fliers have been scattered in Norwalk. All of this happened in the past 10 weeks. And I still recall years ago, during Connecticut’s debate about civil unions and marriage equality, when I received hate mail at my home and at my Capitol office that contained threats which the police had to investigate,” Sen. Bye said. “What we’re trying to do today with this legislation is to say not only are we as a community and a state not going to tolerate this type of abusive and criminal behavior, we are going to crack down on it and we are going to punish it severely.”

“The recent, alarming surge in hate crimes must be met with a strong and clear response,” said Senate President Looney. “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.”

Among other provisions, Connecticut’s proposal would:

• Increase penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual.)

• Increase 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.

• Increase 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.

• Establish a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes, and require such fines to be deposited into a fund for anti-hate crime education initiatives.

“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,” said Steve Ginsberg, Director of the Anti-Defamation League for the Connecticut Region. “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.”

“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,” said Catherine Bailey, Deputy Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. “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.”

“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.”

2015 Hate Crime Statistics in Connecticut (FBI UCR data):
• 94 hate-related incidents reported by law enforcement agencies
• 66% were based on the race, ethnicity, or ancestry of the victim(s)
• 20% were based on the religion of the victim(s)
• 10% were based on the sexual orientation of the victim(s)

2015 Hate Crime Statistics in America (FBI UCR data):
• 5,850 hate-related incidents reported by law enforcement agencies
• 56% were based on the race, ethnicity, or ancestry of the victim(s)
• 21% were based on the religion of the victim(s)
• 19% were based on the gender identity of the victim(s)
• 18% were based on the sexual orientation of the victim(s)

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