NY Signs Hate-Crime Law

Gov. George Pataki signed New York state’s new hate-crime law today, 10 years after a version first passed the Assembly.

“Sometimes, justice takes a little longer than we would have liked,” the governor said at a signing ceremony at the headquarters of the Westchester Holocaust Commission at Manhattanville College.

Senate Republicans had blocked the bill in the past, arguing that singling out some crimes for higher penalties was unfair to victims of non-bias crimes.

However, pressure grew over the years and, when Majority Leader Joseph Bruno allowed it to come to the floor last month, it passed easily and with considerable Republican support.

“The people of New York are saying at last that all of us — black and white, gay and straight, Christian, Jew and Muslim — we will fight this battle together,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a homosexual-rights group.

Cardinal O’Connor Credited Invoking the names of gay-bash victims, Foreman asserted that the bill was held up by the reluctance of the Senate’s Republican majority to include protection for gays and lesbians.

“Two words kept this bill from passing,” he said. “Sexual orientation.”

Pataki and state Sen. Roy Goodman both credited the late Cardinal John O’Connor with helping to push the bill through the Legislature. The cardinal “felt the time had come,” Goodman said.

The law stiffens penalties for many crimes if they are motivated by bias against a victim’s race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability or age. For example, second-degree assault, normally punished by up to seven years in prison, could be punished by up to 15 years if it was deemed a hate crime.