Senate Set to Approve Strongest Hate Crimes Law in the Nation

June 6, 2017

HARTFORD, CT – Leaders of the Connecticut State Senate joined with community advocates and religious leaders today to announce that the Senate is prepared to approve a comprehensive bill aimed at strengthening Connecticut’s hate crime laws, making them the strongest in the nation.

Over the last year, the United States has endured incidents of hate including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism that have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu- Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh-Americans, transgender women and others.

“We will punish hate crimes appropriately and will have the strong hate crimes law in the nation,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “When a bomb threat is made against a religious community center or a religious cemetery is desecrated, or a mosque is vandalized, or women and the LGBT communities are specifically targeted, that is a crime that affects not just the members of the building and cemetery threatened or vandalized, but all members of the protected group throughout our society. Passing this bill will make Connecticut the national leader in the fight against these despicable acts, and serve as a model for other states looking to combat hate and crimes based on bigotry and bias.”

“I thank all the lawmakers and advocates who came here today to stand in unity against bigotry and prejudice. Together, in partnership with one another, we have the ability to pass legislation and send a strong message that Connecticut will protect all people, of all races, of all religions, of all ethnicities, of all sexual orientations and of all genders against hate,” said Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven).

“Across the United States, over the course of the last year, we have witnessed a disturbing spike in hate crimes,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “Strengthening this law will ensure that, here in Connecticut, we will punish those who target communities based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.”

“This legislation will strengthen our criminal justice laws to send a clear message that Connecticut has zero tolerance for hate and violence directed at someone because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from,” said Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Kevin Witkos (R-Canton).

“It is critical that we respond legislatively to the unacceptable increase in religious hate crimes we are seeing in our country,” saidSenator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield), Co-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  “Strengthening our hate crime laws to adequately punish the individuals who commit these horrific crimes also sends a clear message to others that these types of cowardly acts will not be tolerated and the punishment will fit the crime.”

“I want to extend a humble thank you to the entire Judiciary Committee for their hard-work on this important legislation,” saidSenator John A. Kissel (R-Enfield), Co-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “As legislators we must work together to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected so that we can all live peacefully in our great state. I think this bill sends a clear message that as policymakers we will not tolerate threats or intimidation based on hate. I am proud to stand in support of this bipartisan legislation – legislation that works to protect all Connecticut residents against hate crimes.”

“On behalf of ADL leadership and supporters in Connecticut and across our nation, I wish to express profound gratitude to the Connecticut legislature,” said Steve Ginsburg, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League – Connecticut Region.  “ADL drafted the first ever model hate crimes statute, and now welcomes HB 5743 which, with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses, will set an example for how – when unified – we can protect minorities, ensure our freedoms and strengthen democracy. Our state already had relatively strong hate crimes protections, but today our leaders made clear that when incidents of bias and hate are on the rise, good enough isn’t good enough. Protecting community centers, including gender as a protected category and enhancing penalties makes all Connecticut residents and their communities safer and sets a proud example for our children. ADL will keep pushing until all 50 states have hate crimes laws (#50statesagainsthate), and we look forward to being a part of our state’s new Hate Crimes Advisory Council.”

House Bill 5743, An Act Concerning Hate Crimes:

  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual.)
  • Strengthens and modernizes Connecticut’s hate crime laws to include hate crimes based on gender (sex). Current law protects only “gender identity or expression,” not gender.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing the penalty to a Class C felony (from a Class D felony) for making a bomb threat or other threat of violence against a house of worship, religious community center or other religious institution—or any daycare facility—if the threat is made with the intent to terrorize another person or to cause the evacuation of the building or grounds. This puts the penalty for such bomb threats on par with threats made against schools.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by increasing the penalty for desecrating any house of worship or any religious cemetery from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony if there is more than $10,000 in damage, or a Class D felony if there is less than $10,000 in damage.
  • Strengthens hate crime laws by expanding the threshold for a 1st-degree hate crime from its current requirement of causing “serious physical injury” to instead causing “physical injury.”
  • Establishes a court’s power to order extensive, relevant community service and/or restitution, in addition to any other penalties imposed for hate crime convictions.
  • Establishes a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes.
  • Creates a state-wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council.