Making CT Hate Crime Law Strongest in U.S.

March 16, 2017

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

“The recent surge in hate crimes across the country – and some here in Connecticut – is very upsetting,” Rep. William Tong, House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, 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.

“Strengthening our laws and toughening the penalties for this despicable behavior are some of the things that we can do immediately. In the long term, we may also want to consider new programs for educating the public. When someone becomes the target of a crime because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, the very fabric of our democracy is torn. This is something we cannot tolerate,” Tong 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, including Stamford, 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.