On Thursday, May 20, 2010, Governor Charlie Crist (R) signed a bill into law (HB11) that adds homeless persons to the list of protected classes in Florida’s Hate Crime legislation and another bill (Jeffrey Klee’s Law) that lifts the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. Wrongful death claims are most commonly referred to as the “civil suit” that results from a murder.
“I would like to thank the families because it was their courage that made sure the right thing happened in Tallahassee,” said Crist. He then turned to extend his appreciation to State Senator Nan Rich (D) for co-sponsoring the latter bill but she was absent from the signing. However, State House Rep. Ari Porth (D) who sponsored the bill in the House was present.
Crist shook hands with Simone Manning-Moon as he signed HB11 into law. Manning-Moon is the sister of the late Norris Gaynor – a homeless man who was savagely beaten by teenagers with baseball bats in Broward County back in 2006. The incident was caught on security cameras and soon became a national media headline.
Protection of homeless persons is a part of Hate Crimes statutes in only 2 other states and the District of Columbia before Florida’s inclusion. The federal Hate Crimes legislation that was just passed in 2009, better known as The Matthew Shepard Act, does not yet include homelessness as a protected class.
Sexual Orientation has already been included in the Florida Hate Crimes law since 2001, but Gender and Gender Identity are still not protected in the Sunshine State. According to a report released by the National Coalition for the Homeless in conjunction with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 20-40% of homeless youths identify as LGBT.
Also present at the signing were Sheriff Al Lamberti and Cmdr. Rick Wierzbicki of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Hate Crimes Task Force. “In the last 10 years, there have been about 800 violent attacks against the homeless, nationwide,” says Wierzbicki. “Around 200 of those have resulted in mortality. These crimes have included robbery, sexual assault, guttings and even decapitations.
The youngest victim was only 4 years old.” “I like government to do less, but when it does do something it ought to do it right. But the most important thing for Government to do is to protect. The Founding Fathers understood this and put it in the very first line of the Constitution that we, as a nation, need to ensure domestic tranquility,” said Crist before signing the two bills into law at Esplanade Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale.