A week after the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill adding sexual orientation to the state's hate-crimes law, Gov. Mark S. Schweiker has not decided whether to sign the legislation. If Schweiker signs the bill, which would toughen penalties for those convicted of crimes against gays, lesbians, and other groups because of their sexual orientation, it would mark the first time GLBT people have been recognized as a specially protected minority in Pennsylvania. A Schweiker administration spokesman said Monday that the legislation remains under review. The governor has 30 days from final passage of the legislation Tuesday night to decide whether to sign it.
"We certainly do wish to have equal rights," said Stephen Glassman, a New Oxford architect who led lobbying efforts for hate-crimes protection for sexual minorities. "We have never asked for special rights." But conservatives are pressing for Schweiker to veto the bill. They say the bill would erode long-standing equal-protection standards by creating special classes of victims and would force authorities to prosecute thought and motivation instead of facts. "We are paving the way for something which I call a 'thought crime,' where someone's actions are more illegal based upon their thoughts and beliefs," said Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango).