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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


~ Proposed legislation to expand definition of hate crime and empower the Office of Attorney General to prosecute;

new now provides resources for vulnerable individuals and communities ~

RICHMOND (January 13, 2017)-To help protect Virginians from violence, harassment, discrimination, or intimidation because of who they are, how they worship, their gender, or whom they love, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a new package of legislation to protect racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and other vulnerable communities in Virginia from hate crimes and to establish a more inclusive definition of "hate crime." He also announced the launch of, a comprehensive website providing additional information and community resources for individuals and groups who may be concerned about or victims of hate crimes.


"No Virginian should be singled out for abuse, harassment, or mistreatment because of who they are, what they look like, how they worship, where they come from, or whom they love," said Attorney General Herring. "Hate crimes violate the civil liberties of victims and are contrary to the very founding principles of our Commonwealth and our country.I want every Virginian to know that I will always stand up for them and their right to live, work, worship, and love without fear, harassment, or discrimination."


In 2015, there were 155 hate crime offenses reported in Virginia, including 71 assaults, and 49 acts of vandalism or damage to property. This represents a 21% increase over the prior year and an increase in hate crimes was recorded in nearly every reported category. Of these reported hate crimes tracked by the Virginia State Police, 82 crimes were based on racial bias, 23 on religious bias, 22 on sexual orientation, 15 on ethnicity, and 13 on disability. Nationally, the FBI reported a 6% increase in hate crimes nationwide in 2015, including an increase in crimes against Jewish Americans, African Americans, LGBT Americans, and a 67% increase in crimes against Muslim Americans.


Under legislation from Senator Barbara Favola, Delegate Lamont Bagby, and Attorney General Herring, the Virginia Attorney General will be empowered to investigate and prosecute suspected hate crimes through the Commonwealth's network of multi-jurisdictional grand juries, which serve nearly 100 localities and give prosecutors additional tools and resources when investigating crimes and building cases. Prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office already work in the multijurisdictional grand juries around the state on matters ranging from child exploitation to heroin trafficking to gang-related murders.


"Virginians should not fear for their safety because of who they are, what they look like, where they come from, or how they pray," said Del. Lamont Bagby (74thDistrict.) "We each have the right to be safe from hate and to feel welcome in this Commonwealth. I am proud to partner with Attorney General Herring to introduce this legislation, and I'm proud to stand with the diverse coalition that is supporting it."


 "The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has been a powerful force for protecting Americans and Virginians from hate and discrimination," said Attorney General Herring. "It is my sincere hope that the new administration and the next attorney general will continue that bipartisan commitment, but if they choose to step back from that important responsibility even an inch, I want to work with our Commonwealth's Attorneys to make sure that Virginians' rights are protected in the communities they call home."


Another bill from Senator Favola, Delegate Rip Sullivan, and Attorney General will finally update Virginia's definition of "hate crime" to include disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, in addition to crimes motivated by racial, religious, or ethnic animosity. This more inclusive definition will more closely match the federal definition, and will allow a more complete set of hate crimes to be tracked annually by the Virginia State Police, empower prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties against those who commit hate crimes, and allow victims to sue the perpetrator for damages.


"Every Virginian should feel welcome and enjoy equal protection under the law," said Senator Barbara Favola (31st District.) "It is critically important to send a message that no Virginian should experience violence or harassment based on one's gender identification or one's perceived sexual orientation. When one of us is not safe, no one is safe. This is a public safety issue."


"The words we use in the Code of Virginia ought to reflect the values of Virginians,"said Del. Rip Sullivan (48th District.) "The Virginia State Police already collects data on hate crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and reports that data to the FBI. Sadly, those numbers are on the rise. This bill simply codifies what we already do. It gives additional support to the State Police who continue to protect all Virginians from hate crimes. I commend Attorney General Herring for spearheading this much-needed initiative."

New Website to Inform Public on Rights and Legal Protections from Hate Crimes

Today Attorney General Herring also launched, a new dedicated website to give individuals and groups more complete, centralized information on hate crimes.

"I often speak with congregations, communities, and Virginians who feel vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, or hate. They tell me that their fear is made worse by a feeling that they don't really know whether anyone is looking out for them or where they should turn if they are a victim," said Attorney General Herring. "I hope that can help take away some of that fear. Every Virginian should know that they have rights, that the law protects them, and that there are incredible resources and dedicated professionals in Virginia who will defend their rights, keep them and their families safe, and seek justice." will provide information about the rights of Americans to be free from bias-based crimes, as well as state and federal laws to protect against hate crimes and illegal discrimination. It will also provide information about how hate crimes and discrimination can be reported to local, state, or federal authorities and the numerous resources available to individuals and organizations that have been the victim of a hate crime.