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New "Tough Love" for MT Hate Crimes

February 22, 2007


State lawmakers are considering a bill to expand the definition of a hate crime. The proposal would add language to include people who are targeted because of disability or gender. The bill would also provide a new approach to punishing hate crimes.

Amanda Arnold, with the Montana Human Rights Network, says naming names is important when fighting hate crimes.

"We learned from the civil rights movement we need to specify to whom this hate is directed in order to remedy these injustices."

The legislative proposal would change hate crime punishment from prison time to a requirement that convicted hate criminals submit to mediation to help them understand how their crime impacted the community.

Arnold says adding more victim categories to the hate crime law makes that type of crime easier to track, including cases that affect Montana's gay and lesbian community.

"If the intent and motivation of the perpetrator was based on that victim's gender, or perceived gender, then simply, they should be charged with a hate crime."

The bill is identified as SB-454.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MT