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Pennsylvania
Court Strips Down Hate-Crimes Law

The Pennsylvania
supreme court on Wednesday struck down changes to the
state's hate-crimes law that added sexual orientation,
gender identity, ancestry, gender, and mental and
physical disability to the list of protected
characteristics, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
reports.

The state
legislature amended the Ethnic Intimidation and
Institutional Vandalism Act in 2002, and the
measure was signed into law by Republican
governor Mark Schweiker. Christian group Repent America
filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the law in
2005. The commonwealth court, a lower
court, ruled in November 2007 that the amendments
were unconstitutional.

According to
Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, the supreme court stripped
out the additional protections because of the way the
measure was passed -- as an alteration of an
agricultural bill -- not because of its content. The
organization assisted in writing the legislation and worked
on getting it through the house and senate. "We are
extremely disappointed that some of the most
vulnerable people in Pennsylvania are now unprotected
by our state's hate crimes law," said Equality
Advocates executive director Stacey Sobel in a press
release. "I urge the legislature to once again
pass this legislation with all deliberate speed."
Sobel added that Equality Advocates will work to
reinstate the expanded law. (The Advocate)

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