By Rep. Brian Sims
On the evening of September 11, 2014, on a street corner about six or seven blocks from my apartment in the Center City section of Philadelphia, a group of about a dozen individuals — composed of men and women — either took part or watched as a young gay couple was viciously beaten. The victims, two young gay males in their 20s, were left in a pool of blood. One was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw that had to be wired shut.
Within hours of the Philadelphia Police Department releasing surveillance footage depicting the suspects, the nation watched as concerned citizens turned Internet sleuths tracked down the suspects and identified them. Several days later, Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams indicted three individuals on various charges, including aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment of another, and conspiracy.
For me, for the victims, for countless LGBT people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and perhaps most importantly for District Attorney Williams, this attack was absolutely a hate crime. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, it cannot be charged as such. Sexual orientation and gender identity or expression are not included in Pennsylvania’s hate-crimes statute.