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After Attack On Gay Couple, Philadelphia Poised To Pass Hate Crimes Ordinance

Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown said a proposed ordinance to expand the city's hate crime ordinance will likely become law by November.

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Blondell R. Brown
Courtesy Blondell R. Brown

Blondell R. Brown

Philadelphia City Hall
Aimin Tang/Aimin Tang

Philadelphia City Hall

The Philadelphia City Council will likely pass a new ordinance introduced Thursday that would ensure crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability are considered hate crimes in the city.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown said the proposal, which she introduced with Councilman Jim Kenney was co-sponsored by everyone on the city council and could become law as soon as Nov. 2.

"We value diversity and diversity matters, and for those who don't get it, there's a price to be paid," Reynolds Brown told BuzzFeed News when reached by phone. "Right at the door, all of the members get it and understand the value in putting forth this important measure to close this loophole in the law."

She said she can "predict quite confidently" the ordinance will pass and be signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter. "I can't say that about too many pieces of legislation," she added.

The proposal comes two weeks after a gay couple was viciously assaulted by a group of people in Philadelphia's Center City neighborhood, who allegedly used anti-gay slurs before punching the victims in face, head, and chest. Three suspects have been arraigned and face multiple assault charges in connection with the attack, but because of Pennsylvania state law, they won't face hate crimes charges which would be more severe.

"This is the right opportunity to capture all of the citizens who are not protected under the law," Reynolds Brown said. "This new measure will send a message that there is a price to be paid."

The Philadelphia proposal would ensure that hate crimes based on a victims actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability will carry consequences in addition to existing criminal charges such as up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, according to the councilwoman.

State lawmakers, too, are pushing to expand hate crime law across all of Pennsylvania, but the chances of the legislature passing such legislation are slim before the current session expires this fall. Several lawmakers backing the urgent push will rally at LOVE Park in Philadelphia on Thursday.

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