Hawaii's senate judiciary committee approved a measure Monday to add "gender identity or expression" as a class covered by the state's hate-crimes law. The measure goes next to the full senate for consideration. Hawaii's hate-crimes law, passed in 2001, imposes longer prison sentences for crimes motivated by bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin.
The bill "just closes a loophole to take care of gender perception versus sexual orientation," said committee chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa. If a person's mannerisms, speech, or dress appear to conflict with their gender, it's more likely to fuel a hate crime, she said.
Members of Hawaii's transgender community told lawmakers at a hearing Friday of being intimidated or attacked because of their transgender lifestyle. Gabriella Morena, a member of the transgender community, said the amended law would send a clear message to offenders that Hawaii will not tolerate hate crimes based on gender identification.