Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee today heard from law enforcement officials, a legal expert, community advocates and a friend of two victims of violence about the need to restore former protections for LGBT people to Pennsylvania's hate-crime law, said state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila.

Sims requested and co-chaired the public hearing partly in response to a Sept. 11 attack on two gay men in his legislative district. He is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation (H.B. 177/S.B. 42) that would restore the LGBT protections the state Supreme Court removed from Pennsylvania's hate-crime law on a technicality in 2008.

"Our hate-crime law is leaving out women, LGBT people, and people targeted because of their ancestry or mental or physical disability. We must correct this injustice and deter hate crimes, which can have the effect of intimidating an entire segment of the community. Ultimately the public - urban, suburban and rural -- must apply pressure to their state representatives and senators to make this right," Sims said.

Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, said, "Every Pennsylvanian deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect. I applaud Representative Sims for attempting to correct the inequity where sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered in the state's Hate Crimes law."

Testifiers at the hearing included Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety, University of Pennsylvania; Elicia Gonzales, executive director, GALAEI; Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams; Nellie Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia assistant district attorney and LGBT liaison; Leonore Carpenter, associate professor of law, Temple University Beasley School of Law; Thomas Earle, chairman, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations; Rue Landau, executive director, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations; Sharron Cooks, community organizer and consultant, Making Our Lives Easier LLC; and Caryn Kunkle, friend of and spokesperson for victims of the recent attack.

From our media partner EDGE