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Spokane lawmaker’s bill revising hate crime laws passes through the Senate

In response to a series of vandalisms targeting Spokane’s LGBTQ+ community last fall, a bill has successfully passed the Senate floor with a 35-14 vote. The bill advocates for the inclusion of the destruction of public property within the definition of a hate crime.

Last fall, the Odyssey Youth Movement, an LGBTQ youth center, was vandalized multiple times, and two rainbow crosswalks were defaced with paint. However, due to the crosswalks being considered public property, they couldn’t be categorized as hate crimes under current law.

Expressing his concern for the community, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, who sponsored the legislation, remarked, “This incident was a real blow to our community. It created a lot of anger and fear.” Following these incidents, Billig aimed to expand the definition of a hate crime to include harm done to public property. The existing law only recognizes vandalism or destruction as a hate crime when directed at a person or their private property.

Matt Danielson, Executive Director of Spokane Pride, voiced support for the proposed bill. Despite the challenges, the rainbow crosswalks were repainted, and a celebration of pride and LGBTQ inclusivity was held. Approximately 100 people turned up to cross the crosswalk, showcasing unexpected community support.

Billig highlighted a legal loophole where painting a swastika on a school wouldn’t be considered a hate crime, but doing the same on a business could lead to charges. The new bill aims to address this gap, providing a comprehensive framework to address and deter similar acts of hate.

Under the proposed legislation, individuals must demonstrate malicious intent to harm someone based on their identity, encompassing factors such as gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, to be convicted of a hate crime.

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