City delegate wants wider state law on hate crimes Rosenberg drafting bill to include sexual orientation

October 21, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

As the Baltimore City Council moves to deter attacks on gays and lesbians through a local hate-crimes law, a state delegate who sponsored Maryland's hate-crimes statute wants to expand the law to include sexual orientation.

State law covers racial and ethnically based hate crimes.

Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said he is drafting a bill to be introduced in the General Assembly in January to amend the state law in the wake of Matthew Shepard's killing Oct. 12 in Laramie, Wyo. The university student, 21, was killed in part because he was gay.

Since last week's incident, gays and lesbians across the country have been calling on local, state and federal lawmakers to draft measures to help deter attacks on people because of their sexual orientation.

Baltimore council members introduced a bill Monday calling for punishment of hate crimes based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Of 115 hate crimes reported to Baltimore police in 1996 and 1997, 11 involved people victimized because of their sexual orientation.

The board of the Baltimore-based Gay and Lesbian Community Center is planning a vigil tonight at Mount Vernon Square in Shepard's memory and to urge state and federal lawmakers to pass similar measures.

"I'm glad that we're rallying around the horrible thing that happened in Wyoming, but these things have been happening all over," said Kim Donahue, a member of Lesbian Avengers, a statewide organization pushing for the protection of gays and lesbians. "I think it would be great if Baltimore passes its legislation, but we need something statewide and nationally."

Rosenberg, who sponsored Maryland's 10-year-old hate-crimes statute, said he does not recall whether sexual orientation was discussed when the bill was originally drafted, but on the heels of Shepard's killing, he is looking for strong support for the proposed amendment.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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