Panel rejects bill to expand hate crimes law

By Benjamin May
Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A Senate committee on Wednesday defeated a bill to include sexual orientation and gender identification in the state’s definition of hate crimes.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 6-7 against Senate Bill 799, which was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. All six Democrats on the committee supported the measure; all seven Republican committee members opposed it.

SB 799 would have expanded the definition of “hate crime” to include offenses committed against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identification. It would have required law enforcement agencies to report such crimes to State Police.

“Every Virginian should feel welcome and enjoy equal protection under the law,”Favola said in a press release urging approval of her bill. “It is critically important to send a message that no one should experience violence or harassment based on gender identification or perceived sexual orientation.”

Attorney General Mark Herring, another Democrat, worked with Favola to write the bill. “No Virginian should be singled out for violence or discrimination because of who they are, whom they love or where they come from,” Herring said.

At the committee’s meeting Wednesday, a few people from the audience spoke in favor of SB 799. Then, with little discussion, the committee voted.

Voting yes were Sens. Dick Saslaw of Springfield, Janet Howell of Reston, Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, John Edwards of Roanoke, Linda Puller of Mount Vernon and Donald McEachin of Richmond.

Voting no were Sens. Thomas Norment of Williamsburg, Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, Ryan McDougle of Mechanicsville, William Stanley of Moneta, Bryce Reeves of Fredericksburg, Thomas Garrett of Hadensville and Ben Chafin of Lebanon.

A bill identical to Favola’s is awaiting action in the House of Delegates. It is House Bill 1494, sponsored by Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington.

Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.