Borough to tackle resolution on hate crime legislation

Since January, Soldotna City Council and Kenai City Council have both passed similar resolutions.

A state bill looking to expand hate crime protections to include crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity may see support from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

A resolution supporting state House Bill 198, sponsored by assembly President Kelly Cooper and assembly Vice President Hal Smalley, will be introduced at Tuesday’s assembly meeting. The bill would add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the list of aggravating factors considered at sentencing.

Since January, Soldotna City Council and Kenai City Council have both passed similar resolutions.

The resolution cites a series of “escalating incidents of harassment and assault” on the central peninsula that targeted an individual based on their sexual orientation. In December, Sterling resident Tammie Willis reported being attacked in her home — which she said she believed was motivated by her sexual orientation. The incident led to a Jan. 4 town hall meeting, which opened the discussion for HB 198.

After the town hall, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, introduced HB 198.

State statute 12.55.155(c)(22) currently defines an aggravating factor for hate crimes as “the defendant knowingly directed the conduct constituting the offense at a victim because of that person’s race, sex, color, creed, physical or mental disability, ancestry, or national origin,” but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as an aggravating factor for sentencing of a person convicted of the crime, the resolution said.

Josephson’s bill would amend statute to expand hate protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The fundamental civil and human rights of all individuals should be upheld regardless of a person’s race, sex, color, creed, disability, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” the resolution said. “Criminal offenses motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity have no place in our community.”

Copies of the resolution, if passed, will be sent to Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai/Soldotna, Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, and Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Kenai/Soldotna.

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