Florida Hate Crime Coalition Applauds filing of 2018 Hate Crime Legislation

Boca Raton, October 25, 2017 … The Florida Hate Crime Coalition (FHCC) today applauded the recent filing of legislation that would strengthen Florida’s hate crime law. The bill – HB 211 and SB 588 – was filed for the 2018 Florida legislative session by Representative Joe Geller (D-100) and Senator Kevin Rader (D-29). Led by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), FHCC’s 42 members include civil rights and religious organizations, other non-profits, and law enforcement agencies.

“ADL applauds the filing of this important and timely legislation. Countering violence and other crimes motivated by hate is not a Democratic or Republican value, but an American value,” said Sheri Zvi, ADL’s Florida Regional Director. “In light of the spike in hate crimes we are seeing nationally, the violence displayed at the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the attempted homicide charges brought against three known white supremacists in conjunction with Richard Spencer’s recent appearance at the University of Florida, now is the time for the State Legislature to move this legislation forward,” said Zvi.

“This legislation will give prosecutors and law enforcement better tools to hold accountable those who commit acts of hate toward members of our community. Our society is stronger when our values are reinforced through important measures such as this,” said Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney.

Florida enacted a hate crime law in 1989, but critical gaps in the law make it incomplete. A hate crime cannot be charged if a victim is targeted for their physical disability, gender or gender identity. And the law does not cover “mixed-motive” hate crimes. So for example, if a perpetrator involved in fender-bender assaults the other driver while yelling racial epithets and angry remarks about the accident at the victim, a hate crime cannot be charged.

HB 211 and SB 588 would ensure that the State’s hate crime law protects all Floridians by expanding its definition of disability to cover persons with physical disabilities, adding the categories of gender and gender identity, and covering mixed-motive hate crimes.

“In addition to its omission of physical disabilities, the current hate crime law also requires persons targeted for their disability to be incapacitated. But only a minute percentage of the millions of persons with disabilities in Florida are incapacitated. Most persons with disabilities are fully integrated in our communities,” said Matthew Dietz, Litigation Director of the Disability Independence Group. “This essential legislation remedies the current law’s unfair stereotypes against persons with disabilities by removing the incapacitation requirement, and it protects all persons with mental or physical disabilities from hate crimes,” said Dietz.

Established in 2016, FHCC’s mission is to secure a comprehensive hate crime law in Florida. Its current members are: Anti-Defamation League; Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service; Autistic Self Advocacy Network; Broward County Chiefs of Police Association (BCCPA); Chief John Brooks, Sunrise Police Department; Chief Vincent C. Robinson, Jennings Police Department, Jennings, Florida; COSMOS (Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations); Dave Aronberg Palm Beach County State Attorney; Disability Independence Group, Inc.; Disability Solutions for Independent Living; EMGage USA; Equality Florida; Florida Armenians; Florida Association for the Deaf; Florida Atlantic University – Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education; Florida Council of the Blind; Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of FL; Interfaith Council of Central Florida (ICCF); Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County; Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County; Jewish Community Relations Council of The Greater Miami Jewish Federation; Jewish Family Services of Orlando; Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches (JWF); JFCS of Southwest Florida; John W. Mina, Chief of Police, Orlando Police Department; Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney; MCCJ; Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD); National Council of Jewish Women Florida; Palm Beach County Board of Rabbis; PFLAG Gainesville; Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami; Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, Inc.; Satellite Beach Police Department; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County Sheriff’s Office; St. Petersburg Police Department; The Pride Center at Equality Park; United Sikhs; Unity Coalition|Coalición Unida; Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County.