Bills would add new protections under Florida hate crime laws

Fate of bills may rest in the sponsor's political affiliation


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Three bills have been filed for the 2018 session that would add new protections under Florida hate crime laws. The fate of the bills may rest in the sponsor's political affiliation.

Currently hate crime laws in Florida protect people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation or national origin.

But some, like Petra Doan, a transgender woman and professor of urban and regional planning at Florida State University, say current law leaves transgender individuals at risk.

"People can choose to do harm to me or people that I know in my community, and there's no real recourse," Doan said.

A bill filed by a Democratic state representative would add gender identity to the list of protected groups. It would increase the severity of any crime committed against a trans person on the basis of their gender identity up one level.

Along with gender identity, protections for first responders and political affiliations have also been filed.

Both of those bills were filed by Republican lawmakers.

Defense attorney Luke Newman spoke with us when the first responders bill was filed. He said adding occupations to the list could have unintended consequences.

"Are construction workers next? You know, depending on your point of view, you start adding occupations. I think there could be a criticism made that there's a slippery slope involved," Newman said.

Defense attorney Bill Davis said adding protections for political affiliation could have even more widespread consequences.

"What these people are talking about doing is making it a felony, five years in prison, to pull a campaign sign out of somebody's hand," Davis said.

The gender identity protections bill also includes protections for disabled individuals.

Florida has seen an increase in hate crimes according to the latest statistics, with 73 offenses recorded in 2014 up to 102 reported in 2015.