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Image of the Virginia State Seal

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.

 

LEGISLATURE REJECTS REQUESTS FROM HERRING TO BETTER PROTECT VIRGINIANS FROM HATE CRIMES

~ Bills would have authorized OAG to prosecute hate crimes, updated definition to better protect vulnerable communities ~

RICHMOND (February 1, 2017)-Today, despite an increase in hate crimes in Virginia and around the country, the General Assembly completed their rejection of tools to better protect ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and other vulnerable communities from hate crimes. After the House of Delegates Courts of Justice Criminal Law Subcommittee voted on party lines Monday to table the measures, the Senate Courts of Justice committee followed suit today.

 

"The rejection of these bills sends a terrible message at a time when communities in Virginia and around the country are confronting a rise in hate crimes and hateful rhetoric," said Attorney General Herring. "If the people President Trump has surrounded himself with and the chaotic first few days of his administration are any indication, I have serious doubts that we'll be able to rely on the Department of Justice to fight hate crimes in the way that we have for decades. That's why I proposed new tools to protect vulnerable communities and to send a clear message that Virginia does not tolerate hate, discrimination, harassment, or intimidation. Instead, the message from the legislature is that Virginians who feel vulnerable to hate and mistreatment are on their own."

 

The House and Senate each defeated in committee a bill to authorize the Office of Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes through Virginia's multi-jurisdictional grand juries, despite the support of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys for the measure. The House and Senate also defeated bills to update the definition of "hate crime" to more closely match the federal definition by including crimes committed on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

 

The bills were:

  • SB1502 (Favola)- Hate crimes; adds to list of crimes that a multi-jurisdiction grand jury may investigate.
  • SB1524 (Favola)- Hate crimes; criminal acts against persons because of gender, etc.
  • HB2399 (Bagby)- Hate crimes; adds to list of crimes that a multi-jurisdiction grand jury may investigate.
  • HB1702 (Sullivan)-State Police; reporting hate crimes.
  • HB1776 (Plum)- Hate crimes; gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; penalty.

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.

 

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