COLUMBUS—State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) today introduced legislation to expand the scope of ethnic intimidation law and include specified crimes committed based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity along with disability, ethnicity and gender. This legislation also renames the offense of “ethnic intimidation” to “bias-motivated crime”.
“It’s time for Ohio to join the thirty-six other states that have laws against hate or bias based crimes on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Antonio. “The majority of Ohioans value fairness and do not support hate crimes committed against any group. No one should have to live in fear due to lack of legal protections.”
Under current law, ethnic intimidation is defined as certain offenses based on race, color, religion or national origin. Crimes committed in Ohio based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity cannot be prosecuted as a hate crime unless the offense meets rigid interstate commerce requirements. This legislation will amend and strengthen current law and give law enforcement officials in Ohio the ability to more effectively prosecute hate crimes.
Even though sexual orientation is recorded as a motivator in crime, Ohio remains one of fourteen states that do not have laws that address hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Across the nation, 18% of hate crime offenses occur due to a person’s sexual orientation. According to a January 2016 report by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, the Ohio hate crime rate of 4.1 incidents per 100,000 populations is significantly higher than the national average of 1.8 incidents per 100,000 populations. The same study shows that biased hate crimes based on sexual orientation is the second highest hate crime motivator in Ohio.
Hate crimes fragment communities because they target individuals with the intention of causing fear to a whole community. These crimes are intended to “send a message” that an individual and “their kind” will not be tolerated, many times leaving the victim and others in their group feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected. Hateful acts cannot and should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
A bipartisan group of 13 Republican and Democratic lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors during the bill’s introduction.