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Committee adds sexual orientation, police to hate crime law

Alabama Senate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — It would be a hate crime to target someone because of their sexual orientation or employment as a law enforcement officer, under a bill a legislative committee approved Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-2 for legislation to add law enforcement to other categories, such as race and religion, already included in the hate crime statute. But a divided committee also amended the bill to add crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation.

The bill now moves to the full Alabama Senate.

Alabama currently allows heightened penalties if crimes are motivated by the victim's race, religion, national origin, ethnicity or disability.

"We know we have dozens of instances where law enforcement is targeted, or prosecutors think they are targeted, simply because they are law enforcement," said Republican Sen. Chris Elliott of Fairhope, who sponsored the initial bill.

Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Mobile Democrat, proposed the amendment to include crimes that target someone because of their sexual orientation.

The victims of such crimes "need to be protected as well," Davis Figures said.

Some Democratic lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully for years to add sexual orientation to the state's hate crime statute. The committee approved the amendment on a 5-4 vote.

The full Senate will decide whether to keep or remove the amendment.

Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward said he knew that an attempt to expand the state hate crime law would reignite debate over what groups should be included.

"I just want to say for the record that I'm no Nostradamus but back in November I predicted this very same issue would come up," Ward said.

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