Hate crimes package introduced in PA House adds gender identity and sexual orientation

May 26 – Four bills based on hate crimes made it out of the Judiciary Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week and they’ve added gender identity and sexual orientation to the mix. 

Originally termed “ethnic intimidation,” the four bills look to change the language to “hate-based intimidation.” 

When you add gender expression, sexual orientation and gender identity to that, the water gets a little unclear. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “The problem is there’s a lot of very fluid and vague ideas of even what those terms mean. So how can we make laws based around them?” 

PA Representative Paul Schemel said, “Hate-based crimes, that’s something that’s gained popularity in a number of states. As an attorney, I’ve always had an issue with these. Assault is assault. When you assault someone, that’s an assault. When you try to get into the mind of the individual perpetrating a crime, you risk penalizing thought. So was the person someone who hates Jews? He hates Methodists. Whatever it might be, there’s nothing illegal about that. It might be hateful. It might be deplorable, but there’s nothing illegal. We live in a country where people can have a broad variety of views. So now if you’re trying to evaluate, did they do that in furtherance of this hate?”

Some people are wondering what gender expression means in these new bills. 

Schemel said, “I don’t even know what that is, but I can now be accused of hating someone and perpetrating a crime against them and look at the list of crimes. It’s not just obvious things like assault or damage to property. This now also includes if you offend somebody and it says or other offenses. Now think about this, here’s the law that we have written down that someone has to enforce that says or other offenses. What is that? If I offend someone because I’m wearing a t-shirt that says there are only two genders, have I perpetrated a hate crime? Candidly, if a woman is raped, we have to presume that she was targeted because she was a woman, right? The rapist targeted her because she’s a woman. I’m not trying to protect rapists, but we have crimes and sentencing already for rapists. Have they committed a hate crime? Where does this end? Why are these protected classes pulled out, given special protections, but if someone’s fat, if someone’s ugly, if someone’s bald, or whatever, why are these things not? We’re creating classes of society, some with greater protections, some with not. Justice is supposed to be blind, but here we see justice pulling the mask up a little bit over her eyes and taking a peek and that is a very dangerous thing.” 

Emotional distress is also included in the bills. 

Jansen asked, “How do you gauge emotional distress?” 

Schemel said, “Look at police departments. What is a hate crime? What is distress? What is someone being put in concern of their body? We have whole police departments with black officers who are being called racists because they’re part of a systemically racist system. So are they all also going to be subject to hate crime prosecutions? It’s a really dangerous path. No one wants anyone to be beat up because they’re gay or beat up because they’re handicapped or a different race. Certainly not. That’s why we have assaults. Guide rails on society are our laws. We have laws against assault and property damage and that’s why there are sentencing guidelines. So a judge can look and say you know what? You beat this person up, but you beat them up because they were handicapped and weak. That’s why we have sentencing guidelines and therefore I’m going to give you the max. But now in addition to that, there’s this other crime and I’m going to get into your mind and ascertain why you perpetrated that crime and now I’m going to charge you again with something else.” 

Jansen asked, “So if I put out something where I feel like the LGBTQ philosophy is somehow dangerous and then somebody who read that and supposedly put somebody in mental distress over the way they are, then I could be charged with their intimidation crime because I put out information that agrees that this might not be a great philosophy?” 

“It’s ambiguous,” Schemel said. “There’s a question mark there. Would a judge uphold that? I don’t know. That’s precisely the problem with the law. Laws are written down for a reason so that they’re specific, but this is very broad. We’re used to the left using the rhetoric of hate. Oh, you don’t believe in gay marriage, you therefore hate people that are gay. That’s not true. I love people that are gay. I have a philosophical difference of opinion on what marriage is. That doesn’t mean I hate them, but the rhetoric is that you hate them. Therefore under this law, if it were to become enacted, what does that mean? If somehow a crime is perpetrated against them and it’s discovered that the individual had philosophical differences on some of these subjects, that therefore they are also guilty of a hate crime? It’s very, very dangerous and it’s different than even just racism. There is really genuinely a societal consensus on racism. There is not a societal consensus on what genderism is, what transgenderism is, gender expression, all of these new things that are just being forced into the system.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Legislating emotion. How do you do that?” 

Jansen added, “Essentially in effect what this is going to do is to limit free speech and make people afraid of expressing any kind of opposition to a group that claims to be a target of hate.” 

“That’s already happening,” Schemel said, “It’s happening on college campuses. It’s happening elsewhere now, where people are saying you don’t deserve to be heard. Think about that in an American system. You don’t deserve to be heard.” 

Jansen said, “In effect this intimidation law becomes a tool of intimidation.”