EDISON – The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono which seeks to strengthen New Jersey’s hate crimes and bullying laws.
“Hate crimes are unique because these acts target individuals based on who they are or who they’re perceived to be,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Those committing these acts of violence and intimidation do so because of a stereotype or misconception about a particular group. To me, hate crimes are examples of ignorance at its very worst.”
The hate crimes and bullying bill, S-2975, would strengthen the hate crimes law by clarifying that bias crimes dealing with national origin and gender identity are covered under the law. It would also seek to create a commission that would study and make recommendations regarding New Jersey’s bullying law. The commission would study and make recommendations regarding the implementation and effectiveness of school bullying laws and the adequacy of legal remedies available to students who are victims of bullying.
“Learning to respect others needs begin at an early age. Young people who learn to respect others and tolerate differences will become adults who do the same,” said Senator Buono.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was pointed out that New Jersey ranks second in the number of hate crimes reported across America, with 759 reported in 2006. Additionally, New Jersey’s 2006 Uniform Crime Report stated that bias crimes related arrests increased by 68 percent.
While New Jersey was one of the first states in the nation to enact a bias crimes law, it hasn’t been updated in many years. A bias crime based on national origin or gender identity can be prosecuted using the protected classes currently enumerated in the law, this amendment makes clear that these classes are intended to fall within provisions of the statute, Senator Buono said.
“This type of assault on an individual is also an assault on our society’s core values of tolerance and inclusion. No one should be victimized because of who they are,” said Senator Buono
The measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.