ANNAPOLIS -- Hate crimes against homosexuals would have to be reported to police officials under a bill which was reconsidered and then passed by the House of Delegates yesterday.
Having failed for the lack of a single vote on Thursday, the measure was revived, re-debated and passed yesterday on a vote of 78-50. It now goes to the Senate.
Opponents insisted again that the bill's language was so unspecific it could lead to difficulties in enforcement.
The bill would expand existing police and fire department reporting requirements for racial or ethnic hate crimes to include crimes based on "sexual orientation." The bill died originally on a vote of 70-49, one vote short of the required majority for passage in the 141-member House.
Delegate John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that the term "sexual orientation" could refer to "kids making out in a car."
"Everything possible is your sexual orientation," he said. He feared that the language of the bill left up to police authorities what incidents should be reported, he said.
But the bill's sponsor, Delegate Gene W. Counihan, D-Montgomery, said he thought the bill's intent was clear.
"I don't believe the issue here is definition of terms," he said. Everyone is aware of hate-roup activities "focused on individuals because of sexual orientation."
"We live in a country where we protect the rights of minorities -- majorities too. If a homosexual attacked a heterosexual because of sexual orientation, that would be a hate crime," he said.
It is appropriate for the state to begin collecting data in this area so it can decide if preventive action should be taken, he said.
Delegate Anne S. Perkins, D-Baltimore, said such crimes are increasing all over the state.
"All we're asking for are reports," she said.