Senators Boucher and Hwang Applaud Passage of Nation’s Strongest Hate Crime Legislation

June 6, 2017

State Senators Toni Boucher (R-26) and Tony Hwang (R-28) today hailed the Connecticut legislature’s passage of a bill that will create the nation’s strongest hate crime law.

In a strong, bipartisan stand against hate crimes, legislators acted in solidarity with the Anti-Defamation League. House Bill 5743, An Act Concerning Hate Crimes, passed both the state House of Representative and Senate and heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Sen. Boucher said that despite the tolerance found in most of Connecticut, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that 94 hate-related incidents happened in Connecticut in 2015 and incidents have continued in 2016 and 2017.

“There have been unfortunate examples of antisemitism in my district over the years that were deeply disturbing and cast a dark shadow over a caring and tolerant community,” Sen. Boucher said.  “This bill will send a strong message that these despicable acts will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted as the serious crimes they are.”

Sen. Hwang hailed the cooperation that lead to the bill’s passage. The bill adds crimes based on a person’s gender to the list of hate crimes.

“The bipartisan cooperation on this bill means that when the specter of hate rears its ugly head in our communities, all of us will rise up against it,” Sen. Hwang said. “Intolerance and actions of hate can never be tolerated or ignored; this bill reflects the commitment and resolve of CT residents to loudly say that hate is never acceptable under any circumstance. When someone becomes the target of a crime because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, the very fabric and soul of our community is torn.”

Steve Ginsburg, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League – Connecticut Region expressed the organization’s gratitude for the General Assembly’s action.

“On behalf of ADL leadership and supporters in Connecticut and across our nation, I wish to express profound gratitude to the Connecticut legislature,” Mr. Ginsburg said. “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,” Mr. Ginsburg said. “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 w 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.”

Among other provisions, Connecticut’s proposal would:

  • Increase penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual).
  • Increase 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 day care 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.
  • Increase 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.
  • Establish a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes, and require such fines to be deposited into a fund for anti-hate crime education initiatives.

Senator Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

Senator Hwang represents the communities of Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston, and Westport.