Legislation to change Virginia’s definition of hate crimes fails to get out of committee

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RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation that would have updated Virginia’s definition of a hate crime failed to get out of the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice Monday morning.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s bill, SB 1375, would have updated Virginia’s definition of a hate crime to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

Herring says the bill would have “modernized” Virginia’s definition of a hate crime more in line with the federal definition.

The legislation failed after the committee voted on party lines, 6-yes, 8-no.

“The update to Virginia’s hate crimes definition is long overdue and would have offered needed protections for women, the LGBT community and Virginians with disabilities. I am disappointed to see this commonsense bill die in a party-line vote,” said Herring.

Virginia State Police report hate crimes have gone up nearly 50% from 2016 to 2017 and up 65% over the last five years.

According to FBI statistics, there were 193 hate crimes reported in Virginia in 2017. The FBI reported 122 hate crimes statewide in 2016 and 158 in 2015.  Locally, Chesterfield County reported nine hate crimes, Henrico County reported one, and the City of Richmond reported two.

The majority of reported hate crimes were based on the victim’s race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, the FBI reported.

“At a time when communities in Virginia and around the country are confronting a rise in hate crimes and hateful rhetoric, the General Assembly has sent a clear message to those who feel vulnerable to hate and mistreatment that they will not take the measures needed to protect them,” Herring added.

This is the third year in a row that Herring has backed similar legislation to combat hate crimes, with no success.

Republicans have previously opposed the measures saying they were too broad.

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