ASSEMBLY AND SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEES UNANIMOUSLY APPROVE BILL TO OVERHAUL NEW JERSEY'S HATE CRIMES AND SCHOOL BULLYING LAWS
The full Senate will vote on the bill later today, Thursday, January 3rd; the full Assembly, on Monday. The bill is expected to win overwhelmingly in both houses.
The bill adds "gender identity or expression" to the state's hate crimes law and strengthens the state's hate crimes law for all minority groups. The bill also requires schools to post on the web, and widely distribute, their anti-school bullying policies, and creates a Commission on Bullying in Schools to further strengthen the state's anti-bullying law.
The bill will become the 154th LGBT civil rights law enacted at the state, county and local levels since Garden State Equality's founding in 2004 -- an all-time national LGBT civil rights record.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Contact: Steven Goldstein
By a 5-0 vote, the Assembly Judiciary Committee just approved A4591, sweeping legislation to strengthen New Jersey's hate crimes and anti-school bullying laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an identical version of the bill, S2975, by an 8-0 vote on December 13th. The full Senate will vote on the bill, conceived by Garden State Equality and the New Jersey Anti-Defamation League, later today. The full Assembly will vote on Monday. The bill is expected to sail to victory in both houses.
The bill comes on the heels of a just-released FBI report that ranks New Jersey #2 in hate crimes nationally, behind only California. The prime Assembly sponsors are Wilfredo Caraballo, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Upendra Chivukula and John McKeon. The prime Senate sponsors are Barbara Buono and Loretta Weinberg.
The bill does the following:
1. Adds "gender identity or expression" as a protected class to the state hate crimes law. Combined with the 2006 expansion of the state's Law Against Discimination to include gender identity or expression, the strengthened hate crimes law will make New Jersey's laws for the transgender community unsurpassed in all America.
2. It updates other parts of the hate crimes law by adding "national origin" as a protected category, which thus far has been included in the law by interpreting "ethnicity" to include such; and substitutes the more sensitive term "disability" for "handicap."
3. It specifies that a "mistake of fact" by a defendant committing a hate crime is not a defense.
4. It requires two hours of hate-crimes sensitivity training for all new police officers.
5. It specifies suggested sentencing options to which judges can sentence defendants, such as anti-hate sensitivity training.
6. It creates a study Commission on Bullying in Schools, which has nine months to investigate the problem and make recommendations to the Governor and legislature for further legislation.
7. It requires schools post their anti-bullying policies on their websites, and to distribute their anti-bullying policies, within 120 days after enactment of the law.
"As Washington stumbles through one of the most disappointing years ever for the LGBT community, including Congress' refusal to pass a hate crimes law and the cruel elimination of the transgender community from an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that President Bush still won't sign," said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, "New Jersey continues to be a national beacon for civil rights."
"The enactment of this bill will be the start of another amazing year in New Jersey," said Goldstein, "and we look forward to culminating 2008 with the enactment of a marriage equality statute."
The passage of the hate crimes/school bullying bill will mark the 154th LGBT law enacted in New Jersey at the state, county and municipal levels since Garden State Equality's founding in 2004. That's more LGBT civil rights laws in less time than in any other U.S. state, ever in American history.