Making CT Hate Crime Law Strongest in U.S.

March 16, 2017

Rep. Lesser speaks out against hate crimes and the need for tougher legislation.

“Hate crimes are so different from other crimes because they are targeting not just individuals but entire communities with the willful infliction of terror and fear on a community,” Representative Lesser told a press conference Thursday in announcing new legislation that would not only toughen the state’s hate crime laws, but also make them the strongest in the nation.

“As the son of an immigrant and the grandson of a refugee, this is very personal to me, and I’ve heard from my constituents as many of us have how fearful they have become in recent months. This is important legislation and I will do everything I can to support it,” Lesser said.

In recent months, incidents of hate including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism have been directed against African-Americans, Hindu-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Sikh-Americans, transgender women and others in Connecticut and across America.

“The recent, alarming surge in hate crimes must be met with a strong and clear response,” said Senate President Looney. “Our hate crimes proposal will make Connecticut the national leader in the fight against these despicable acts, and it will serve as a model for other states looking to combat hate crimes based on bigotry and bias.”

Among other provisions, Connecticut’s proposal would:

  • Increase penalties, making it a felony (instead of a misdemeanor) for committing a hate crime against a group of persons (instead of a specific individual).
  • Increase the penalty to a Class C felony (from a Class D felony) for making a bomb threat or other threat of violence against a house of worship, religious community center or other religious institution—or any daycare facility—if the threat is made with the intent to terrorize another person or to cause the evacuation of the building or grounds. This puts the penalty for such bomb threats on par with threats made against schools.
  • Increase the penalty for desecrating any house of worship or any religious cemetery from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony if there is more than $10,000 in damage, or a Class D felony if there is less than $10,000 in damage.
  • Establish a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for individuals convicted of hate crimes, and require such fines to be deposited into a fund for anti-hate crime education initiatives.