This is far from the first time Democrats have pushed for the change. Rader and Geller have filed a version of the bill in their respective chambers each of the previous three years.
But none has gotten very far in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Prior efforts have all stalled out before advancing through a single committee, save one. Rader’s 2018 bill moved through the Criminal Justice Committee by a 3-2 vote before dying in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
Rader’s 2020 version of the legislation (SB 940) adds “gender” and “gender identity” to the list of traits contained in the state’s hate crime law. Geller added his own version in the House (HB 655) Friday afternoon.
The law currently covers attacks dealing with “based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, or advanced age of the victim.” Rader’s bill would also slightly alter that language to cover attacks “based in whole or in part” on those traits, along with gender and gender identity.
The statute allows such attacks to be reclassified as more serious crimes. For instance, an attack that would otherwise be classified as a second-degree misdemeanor becomes a first-degree misdemeanor. An attack typically qualifying as a first degree misdemeanor becomes a third-degree felony, and so on.
Attacks that generally qualify as a first-degree felony become a life felony.
The measures from Rader and Geller define gender identity as “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, regardless of whether such gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.”
If approved, the new provisions would take effect on Oct. 1, 2020.