Push to expand hate crimes draws bi-partisan support

Legislation has been filed the past three sessions but has never gotten traction

Scott Beierle, gunman in Tallahassee yoga studio shooting
Scott Beierle, gunman in Tallahassee yoga studio shooting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The gunman who killed a female FSU student and professor at the hot yoga studio in Tallahassee last year was found to have a long history of hating women. But the shooting wasn’t included in the FBI’s 2018 hate crime report, because in Florida gender isn’t included in the state’s hate crime laws.

Victim Maura Binkley’s father Jeff Binkley founded Maura’s Voice after the shooting with hopes of uncovering ways to prevent hate spurred violence.

“There's not much known about it and it needs to be addressed,” said Binkley in March.

Maura’s Voice has since come out in support of legislation that would add gender as a protected class.

“The reason we must legally call all hate crimes by their name and provide specific punishments is that they, above all, undermine fundamental values of a decent society in very specific ways, corroding respect for others; a sense of responsibility to all of our brothers and sisters; the freedom to live our lives without fear of being attacked simply because of who we are; and yes, freedom of individual expression,” Binkley said in a statement.

Meg Baldwin with Refuge House believes it would be a step in the right direction. There were 141 hate crimes in Florida reported to the FBI in 2018.

“To reframe what these crimes are really all about. To dislodge them even further from those old stereotypes that these were all crimes of passion that had to do with an excess of feeling rather than an intention to harm and demean,” said Baldwin.

The legislation has been filed for the past three sessions but has never gotten traction.

This year, however, the legislation for the first time has both Democrat and Republican co-sponsors.

“Hatred of women and crimes against women are not partisan issues,” said Baldwin.

If the bill does pass in 2020, Florida would join 31 other states that already have hate crime laws that include gender-based crimes.

The legislation filed in Florida would also add gender identity to the state’s hate crime statute.

Only 17 states currently include gender identity under their hate crime laws.