Hate Crimes bill sees small victory

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It is being called a small but solid victory for HB 0335.

The legislation, which would add gender identity and expression to Tennessee’s hate crimes statute as sentencing enhancement factors, passed its first test Wednesday, April 22, in the Criminal Practice and Procedure subcommittee. It will now move to the full House Judiciary Committee next week.

Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the bill received a quick and favorable vote after it was introduced by Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) on Wednesday. 

"We were worried that it might not have the votes to get out of subcommittee," Sanders said. "This is a very significant victory."

Sanders applauded Richardson in TEP’s blog for taking on the issue of hate crimes.

"Even an issue that has trouble gaining traction can move if the preparation is right and it certainly was today," Sanders wrote.

HB 0335 has been advocated by the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), led by TTPC President Marisa Richmond, and TEP.

"The fact that there were no questions and no debate means that the members of the Criminal Practice Subcommittee understand the necessity of passing this vital piece of legislation to help protect the lives of Tennesseans," Richmond said. "Being pro-safety and anti-crime is good politics regardless of party, and we are pleased that the members of Criminal Practice saw that today."

 If passed, the bill will add gender identity or expression as a sentencing enhancement factor to Tennessee’s hate crimes statute that currently includes sexual orientation.