NY Signs Hate-Crime Law

ByJim Fitzgerald

P U R C H A S E, N.Y., July 10, 2000 -- Gov. George Pataki signed New York state’snew hate-crime law today, 10 years after a version firstpassed the Assembly.

“Sometimes, justice takes a little longer than we would haveliked,” the governor said at a signing ceremony at theheadquarters of the Westchester Holocaust Commission atManhattanville College.

Senate Republicans had blocked the bill in the past, arguingthat singling out some crimes for higher penalties was unfair tovictims of non-bias crimes.

However, pressure grew over the years and, when Majority LeaderJoseph Bruno allowed it to come to the floor last month, it passedeasily 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 — wewill fight this battle together,” said Matt Foreman, executivedirector of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a homosexual-rightsgroup.

Cardinal O’Connor CreditedInvoking the names of gay-bash victims, Foreman asserted thatthe bill was held up by the reluctance of the Senate’s Republicanmajority to include protection for gays and lesbians.

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

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

The law stiffens penalties for many crimes if they are motivatedby bias against a victim’s race, religion, sex, sexual orientation,disability or age. For example, second-degree assault, normallypunished by up to seven years in prison, could be punished by up to15 years if it was deemed a hate crime.

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