On February 25th the Leon County Board of County Commissioners are set to vote on whether or not to approve joining the Florida Hate Crime Coalition (FHCC), formed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2016. This issue was brought to the Boards attention by the Tallahassee-Leon County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.
Currently, Florida law defines a hate crime as “acts committed against people based on their personal characteristics,” but this does not include “gender based” crimes or crimes based on physical disabilities, therefore such crimes cannot be prosecuted as a hate crime in Florida.
According to data collected by the ADL, Florida is following a national trend with an increase in hate crimes in 2017 and 2018, reaching an all time high. However, due to Florida’s definition of a hate crime, these numbers do not reflect crimes motivated by gender.
This year legislation to change Florida’s current law to end loopholes regarding hate crime classification has been filed in the House and has so far garnered bipartisan support, after failing in 2017 and 2018. If approved the bill with provide a more “expansive definition of disability,” add the category for gender and gender identity, include coverage for “association with” hate crimes, and allow for prosecution of “mixed motive” crimes.
The FHCC now has over 260 members which include bipartisan and intergovernmental support from all over Florida. Some of our own include, Leon County Sheriff Walter McNeil and Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey who have joined the Coalition to show their support.
There is no fiscal impact for Tallahassee-Leon County to join the Coalition and if approved a copy of the “executed Resolution” will be sent to the Anti-Defamation League and the Board will be showing its support for the Coalition and their fight for broader and stronger hate crime laws in Florida.