Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Law Ruled Unconstitutional

November 16, 2007 at 10:46 am 3 comments

Score one for the homo-haters in Pennsylvania. A state court has ruled that a 2002 expansion of the state’s LGBT hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and physical disability unconstitutional because the hate crimes language was added to an unrelated bill dealing with agricultural vandalism.

Commonwealth Court’s 4-1 ruling handed a victory to a conservative Christian group called Repent America, which filed a lawsuit in 2005 challenging the amendment of the state hate-crimes law three years earlier.

Repent America founder and leader Michael Marcavage, one of the plaintiffs, was among the organization’s members who were arrested in the fall of 2004 for picketing a Philadelphia street festival for gays and lesbians and evangelizing that homosexuality is a sin.

They were acquitted of ethnic intimidation , Pennsylvania’s version of a hate crimes law , and other charges, but feared they would be charged with the same crime if they staged similar protests in the future, Marcavage said Thursday.

Marcavage and six other group members argued that the amendment was passed unconstitutionally because it replaced language in a bill that dealt with agricultural vandalism and crop destruction.

“We believe that the Legislature in Pennsylvania did not have the proper opportunity to review what was being passed,” Marcavage said. “If they didn’t have any concern about it, they should have just presented it as it was.”

Judge James Gardner Colins wrote in the majority opinion that the final legislation bore no resemblance to the original bill by the time it was passed and signed into law by then-Gov. Mark Schweiker, even though both versions dealt with crime.

“We emphasize that no matter how salutary the purpose of a bill may be, it still must comport with constitutionally mandated requirements for passage,” Colins wrote.

The forces of gay goodness and light led by Stacey Sobel of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania are not giving up the fight though. They are continuing to fight for the rights of LGBT Pennsylvanians including advocating for a non-discrimination bill that would cover housing, employment, and public accommodations.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. healtheland  |  November 16, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Pardon me, but whatever your opinion on gay rights, this WAS NOT a victory for those who hate homosexuals, but rather a victory for the legal process and open honest good government. These riders and provisions that are inserted into bills harm the whole process. This tactic allows things that would not stand up to the scrutiny of the democratic process to become law, and is also used by the opposition to kill bills that would otherwise pass. The only reason why anyone supports measures being enacted in this fashion is “ends justifies means” ideological zealotry that they generally hypocritically bemoan when those same tactics are used to pass measures that they oppose.

    The court did its job in this case, and for them to allow an agriculture bill to be turned into a gay rights bill because “they both deal with crime” would have been judicial activism. I say bravo, and that people who advocate this legislation becoming enacted should write a standalone bill and subject it to the political process just like everything else.

    Reply
  • 2. Michael Crawford  |  November 16, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    The anti-gay activists who fought to overturn the hate crimes law did not do so in the interest of “legal process and open honest good government.” They fought the law because they hate gay people and will stop at nothing to prevent our civil rights progress.

    Its not “ideological zealotry” that caused gay activists to use this strategy to pass the hate crimes law. It was the best way to get the bill through a legislature that was dominated by Republicans.

    Reply
  • 3. Haine Pourpede  |  November 16, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    “Homo-haters”? “Forces of gay goodness and light”?! HA HA HA!

    Do you take yourself seriously? What a cartoon, second-grade view of the world. Grow up, dude.

    Reply

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