A bill long championed by Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) to expand the definition of hate crimes cleared the Virginia House of Delegates with a 60-39 vote on Wednesday (Feb. 19).
If approved by the state Senate, the bill would add gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability as categories covered by hate crimes.
Currently, the law defines hate crimes as an illegal act directed against individuals or property because of the person’s race, religion or national origin.
Plum and Del. Richard Sullivan, Jr. pushed for the measure. Last year, a similar bill proposed by Plum died in a House committee. Republicans on the committee stated that the change would unnecessarily complicate the law, which already punishes violence.
Hate crimes must be reported to the Department of State Police by local law enforcement agencies.