PA Offers Little Protection for Gay Victims of Hate Crimes

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Feb. 29, 2012

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By “everyone,” Waters means the LGBT community, where news of Waters, and his situation, spread like wildfire. At this point, Waters is receiving voicemails from people he doesn’t even know. They tell him they’re enraged about the situation, and then leave him another phone number and advise him to call another person he doesn’t know.

That’s just the way the Philly LGBT community works. But the way Pennsylvania law works, even if the prosecution convicts Roman of criminal mischief and harassment and can prove bias as motivation, it wouldn’t matter legally.

Waters and Benoit say last week, a rep from the Human Relations Commission took the sign down. The HRC declined to comment on the situation.

Roman declined to comment through his attorney, Mary T. Maran. “My client denies putting up the sign,” says Maran.

In 2002, an amendment was passed that added actual or perceived ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to the list of bias categories covered by the Ethnic Intimidation Act, which already included race, color, religion and national origin.

It didn’t last long.

In 2004, Temple grad Michael Marcavage, born-again Christian and founder of extreme Philadelphia-based evangelical group Repent America, was arrested while protesting the city’s OutFest celebration. Marcavage was charged under the Ethnic Intimidation Act.

A judge eventually dismissed the charges against Marcavage, but he went on to challenge the law all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Though the premise has precedent in other states, the way the amendment was passed resulted in it being declared unconstitutional. “It had nothing to do with the content of the statute,” says Leonore Carpenter, assistant professor of law at Temple and former legal director at Equality Advocates PA. “It was merely that it was passed in a way that was procedurally inappropriate. It was a very technical reason.” In short, legislators violated protocol by tucking it into an agricultural bill.

“[The amendment] has not been passed again,” adds Carpenter.

With both chambers dominated by Republicans rapidly proving themselves to be among the most socially conservative in the country, properly amending the Ethnic Intimidation Act to include gender and sexual orientation isn’t a top priority.

Ted Martin, the executive director of LGBT political advocacy organization Equality PA, says, “There’s discussion about hate-crime legislation in Harrisburg, but there’s nothing moving.”

The inertia probably has something to do with the fact that Pennsylvania has never had an openly gay or lesbian legislator in either the House or the Senate. (If Brian Sims, a lawyer challenging Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) for the 182nd District, wins a seat this year, he will be the first.)

“The point has to be made that we simply treat LGBT people really bad [in Pennsylvania],” says Martin.

Recently, Martin established the first LGBT caucus in the state legislature. “The basic gist of the caucus is to start having conversations,” says Martin. “To help members of the Legislature to simply understand the lives of LBGT folks, quite honestly.”

Perhaps they can start by having Blaze Waters as a guest to tell them all about it.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Gary H said... on Mar 1, 2012 at 06:19AM

“My heart goes out to this couple. Being a gay man myself and live openly, this is beyond wrong and hateful. There has to be something on the legal books in some context to arrest this unkind, hateful, mean, obviously mentally unstable and most likely a self professed christian man.

While I can understand his reasoning of leaving the house, I personally, would not back down. I would invite all my gay friends to move in, keep a constant watch around the property complete with guns in hand and when he stepped foot on the property, you guessed it. Where is the gay community gathering in force in this neighborhood for this couple?

As usual, the law enforcement world doesn't want to do anything really for the gay community. To protect and serve? Obviously NOT! What does the mayor have to say about this? One last comment, ask for his green card and see what happens!”

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2. irony jones said... on Mar 1, 2012 at 08:14AM

“so you go to prison for arson and come out with the nickname "Blaze"?

he does get a lot of press ill say that. check PGN. always the victim.

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3. tcinphilly said... on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:36AM

“Why do we need a hate-crime law to prosecute someone for bullying for *any* reason? This offense should be taken seriously regardless of the motive of the perpetrator!”

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4. queer said... on Mar 2, 2012 at 09:14AM

“Let's hope that Brian Sims, the lawyer challenging Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) for the 182nd District,doesn't win. Rep. Josephs has been one of the strongest supports of LGBT equality and protection in the state. Sims might look good getting sworn in, but he isn't likely to work as strongly on our behalf as Babette has and will do.”

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5. Paul Reese said... on Mar 7, 2012 at 06:04AM

“Every Person we meet everyday is differant in some way. Including this fool causing the problems. He is fresh off the boat from somewhere. Which is cool. But to persecute someone for whom they love is Unacceptable. I have to say Mr Walters is Much Nicer and more controled than I think I could ever be.”

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6. None Mangini Fan said... on Mar 11, 2012 at 04:40PM

“Irony Jones You sound like a Stalker Hiding behind made up names !It sad that you have this hiden anger as one of our PPL are attacked yes we feel we know exactly who you are Your a circus Star lol or want to be go back under the rock you smoke through a car antena and give us all peace! Thanks next time be a man and write under your real facebook name...... TA!TA!”

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7. Steven Roberts said... on Mar 13, 2012 at 03:44AM

“Lets all stick together and Help Blaze Waters & His BF this is not right in any WAY!”


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