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In response to the recent gay bashing in Center City, many Philadelphians wondered if the alleged perpetrators would be prosecuted for a hate crime. The problem with that question, PW‘s Randy LoBasso pointed out weeks ago, is that Pennsylvania does have a hate crimes statute: It conspicuously doesn’t protect LGBT folks, however.

In response to that glaring omission in state law, thousands of individuals gathered in various rallies in and around Philadelphia demanding the law be changed. State Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), himself openly gay, pledged to try to change that with some of his colleagues, too. It seems that the proposal to amend the state hate crimes statute to protect LGBT folks has passed its first hurdle: the state house judiciary committee.

Sims says in a Facebook post that the amendment to protect LGBT people under the state hate crimes law passed the lower house’s judiciary committee by a vote of 19-4. The amendment would “include sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability” under the state hate crimes law.

“This is huge,” says Sims. He went on to thank fellow state representatives Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), and Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks). Marsico, a Republican, is chair of the committee and Caltagirone is the minority chair. Both voted in favor of the amendment.

The bill is far from guaranteed to pass. Now, it goes before the entire state house. “All eyes are on PA State Rep. Mike Turzai,” says Sims, “who as the [Republican] Majority Leader gets to decide if this bill is called up for a vote by the full house in the remaining 5 days the Speaker of the House has scheduled for us to be in Session!”

Basically, if Turzai doesn’t call the bill up for a vote in five days, the likelihood of its ever passing decreases exponentially. A spokesman for Turzai, a Republican from Allegheny County, said in 2011 that he has never given LGBT rights, more specifically gay marriage, “much thought.”

Turzai might not give LGBT rights much thought, but he has, however, in the past voted to ban same sex marriage, which became legal nonetheless in Pennsylvania thanks to a court ruling earlier in 2014.

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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