Florida state Sen. Kevin Rader

Equality Florida announced today (Tuesday, Feb. 6) that the state’s Senate Criminal Justice Committee passed has passed a bill providing “essential updates to Florida’s hate crime statutes.”

As written, Sen. Kevin Rader’s “extends critical protections to both the disability and transgender communities and addresses ‘mixed motive’ loopholes to [deal with] crimes that escalate to hate motivated attacks,” according to an Equality Florida press release.

Equality Florida Government Affairs Manager Jon Harris Maurer noted, “Adding disability and gender-related hate crimes to Florida’s law is long overdue. The transgender community, especially transgender women of color, are disproportionately the targets of victims of hate-motivated violence,” adding that his organization “applauds” Criminal Justice Committee Chair Randolph Bracy and the majority on the committee for the vote.

According to the most recent report from the Florida Attorney General, there were 124 hate crimes in reported in Florida in 2016, a 21.6 percent increase from 2015. But because of gaps in the state’s hate crimes law, that number doesn’t include hate crimes committed because of certain physical disabilities, gender or gender identity, or “mixed motive” hate crimes.

Florida’s current hate crimes law Current state law applies only to hate-motivated crimes against people living with disabilities if they are “incapacitated” by the disability.

“While blind and deaf Floridians, for example, are protected by the Florida Civil Rights Act from discrimination in housing and employment, they are not afforded the same protections under state law if they are targeted for crimes or violence,” the Equality Florida press release explains. “SB 588 updates definitions of ‘disability’ to align with definitions in the Florida Civil Rights Act and to include all people living with disabilities. Furthermore, the law’s omission of gender and gender identity does not conform to the federal hate crime law. SB 588 closes these critical loopholes in Florida’s hate crime law and extends protection to some of the communities most at-risk for hate violence.”