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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Alabama CrimProf on Sexual Orientation's Exclusion from Hate Crime Legislation

From Al.com (Montgomery, Ala.): AP--"The severe beating of a Montgomery man for allegedly making sexual advances toward another man is the latest example of why Alabama's hate crime law should include sexual orientation, the leader of a gay advocacy group said Wednesday. Police say Marcus Dewayne Kelley, 26, told them he beat Billy Sanford, 52, with a hammer because of repeated sexual advances. Sanford has remained in a coma since the Oct. 19 attack at his home. Kelley, who worked as a handyman for Sanford, was arrested Monday in Alexander City and will be charged with attempted murder...[T]he attack on Sanford is at least the fifth reported crime based on homosexuality in Alabama within a year.

"Hate crimes are based in hatred, and committed based on anti-gay hatred," said [Howard Bayless, Chairman of Equality Alabama]. "The most important thing about it is the perception of the perpetrator, not the identity of the victim." Alabama law defines a hate crime as a violent act committed against a person because of their race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability. For the last three legislative sessions, Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, has pushed bills to include sexual orientation within Alabama's hate crime statute. The bills have yet to pass.

University of Alabama Law professor and retired Judge Joseph Colquitt said the penalties in many cases like Kelley's are the same even though Alabama's hate crime statute is as strong as those in other states. Attempted murder carries the same penalties as actual murder — a sentence of 10 to 99 years served. An additional hate crime charge would raise the minimum sentence by five years. "It has some affect but not a great amount of impact," Colquitt said. "In many cases of attempted murder or murder, the sentencing may very well be more than 15 years."

[Regardless of the practical effects on sentencing,] Bayless said that including violence aimed at gays and lesbians would likely decrease those crimes. The state sends a message that it is OK to hurt gays and lesbians by excluding sexual orientation from the statute, he said. "It is so important that we get sexual orientation added to the hate crimes bill so that awareness of this problem will grow," Bayless said." [Mark Godsey]

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