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Pa. Lawmakers Urge Action On Stalled Hate Crimes Legislation

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- A group of state lawmakers is calling for action on legislation to strengthen Pennsylvania's hate crimes law. A court ruling nullified a law that expanded hate crimes protections on a technicality nearly a decade ago.

Protections extended under the state's current hate crimes law include race, color, religion, and national origin. A 2002 law added to that but it was struck down on the grounds that it violated the state constitution's "single subject" rule for bills. Legislation currently pending would expand those definitions to include ancestry, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Philadelphia Democrat Kevin Boyle, sponsor of a House hate crimes bill, says recent events highlight the need for it.

"We've gone backwards in the last two years," Boyle said. "We see in Charlottesville, we see young men marching – not even with hoods anymore, they're openly marching – and proclaiming their hatred."

Boyle is confident that if the hate crimes bill is brought up for a vote in the House it would pass overwhelmingly.

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