FLORIDA (WWSB) - Legislation to expand the definition of what is considered a hate crime has been filed at the state capitol.
Under current Florida law, acts committed against someone based on race, religion, age, sexual orientation or mental disability can be considered hate crimes. If someone is found guilty in court, that person faces a stronger sentence than if the same crime was perpetrated against someone who does not fit into one of the categories.
This year’s measure would expand the law to include crimes against people based on their gender, gender identity or physical disability. Senator Kevin Rader is the bill sponsor.
“Hate crimes are distinct, because they target victims simply because of who they are," State senator Kevin Radar said. "They are intended to terrorize members of entire communities. These crimes are intended to send a message to more than their immediate victims.”
“We will not let people be victimized by other Floridians, just because of who they are or what group they belong to," State representative Joe Geller said.
Bill supporters say the number of hate crimes reported in Florida during 2017 was 145, a 51 percent increase in just one year. However, they feel that number is likely low, as many hate crimes are never reported to authorities.
The legislation has yet to be heard by any House or Senate committee, ahead of the 2019 session which begins March 5th.