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Hate Crimes

“Hate crimes legislation” refers to any law that forbids targeting a person for a crime because of their perceived inclusion in a racial or ethnic group, sexual minority, religion, or other group. Laws forbidding hate crimes impose an additional penalty on the offender beyond the standard penalty for the crime committed.

The Washington State hate crimes law is very broad, covering crimes committed because of the perpetrator’s “perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap.” In 2009, the law was expanded to include people who are transgender. Punishable acts include physical injury to the victim, physical damage to the property of the victim, and threats against a person or group of persons.

There has been a federal hate crimes law since 1969, coming out of the civil rights movement. In 2009, this law was expanded to include perceived or actual gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. This act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.