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City Council Will Look To Add Hate Crimes To Philadelphia Code

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - In the wake of the brutal beating of a gay couple in Center City, two city council members today are introducing a bill that -- for the first time -- adds hate crimes to the city code.

Two men and a woman have been charged in the attack, but DA Seth Williams could not charge them with a hate crime, because no such protection exists in the city or state.

City council members Blondell Reynolds Brown and Jim Kenney hope to change that.  Today, they are introducing a bill that adds hate crimes to the individual conduct portion of the city code.

It would add penalties for crimes such as assault, arson or even mischief when the offender is motivated by the victims sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Kenney says the bill sends a simple message to haters:

"Mind your own business and keep your hands to yourself.  If people want to hold hands in public, that's their business, not yours."

Under their plan, anyone convicted would have 90 days added on to the jail term imposed for the crime itself.

"The word will go out that when you cannot respect people who are different than you, there is a price to be paid for that," says Reynolds Brown.

Kenney admits the additional penalty is not much, and says this is better tackled by revising the state criminal code.

"It's not within our ability to do anything more than we're doing," he tells KYW Newsradio.  "I'm hoping that the state beats us to the finish line and amends the statute in Pennsylvania to make this (City Council effort) unnecessary."

The proposal will be debated in committee.

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