FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2010
CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Communications Director
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Sacramento - Today the California State Assembly passed the Hate Crimes Protection Act (AB 1689) in a 44-25 vote. Sponsored by Equality California and introduced by Assemblymember Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), the bill would exempt hate crimes from mandatory arbitration clauses, often included in employment contracts and would prohibit contracts from requiring an individual to waive his or her legal rights, guaranteed under the Ralph Civil Rights Act, which provides protections for hate crime victims.
"Victims of hate crimes should never be forced into arbitration simply because they signed an employment or residential contract with fine print that waives their right to seek justice in our courts," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.
Although California state and civil laws protect people from hate-related crimes, private contracts often require individuals to relinquish their fundamental rights and protections.
"Many employment contracts have a mandatory arbitration clause, which allows perpetuators of hate crimes to arbitrate and not go to court," said Assemblymember Saldaña. "This bill would make hate crimes an exemption if you sign one of these contracts. Hate crimes negatively impact communities and an individual's psyche, which is why they must be brought to justice and not stipulated outside of court as required by a legal loophole."
Nationally, hate crimes against LGBT individuals increased in 2007, according to the FBI. In Los Angeles County, there were 134 hate crimes based on sexual orientation reported in 2008, up from 111 in 2007. In addition, these incidents were more likely to be violent than hate crimes motivated by race or religion, according to the annual Hate Crimes Report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
The California Penal Code defines a hate crime as "a criminal act committed because of actual or perceived characteristics of the victim including disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics."
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed over 60 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org