State Senator Wants To Change Hate Crime Law In N.C.
Posted March 1, 2005 5:30 a.m. EST
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — If someone is attacked in North Carolina based on sexual preference, it is not considered a hate crime. North Carolina is one of 20 states where sexual orientation is not covered by hate crime laws. One state senator believes it is time the law is changed.
Chapel Hill police say last week, six or seven young men hurled insults about Thomas Stockwell's sexual orientation before attacking him. Police call it a hate crime, but state law does not back it up.
Orange County Sen. Ellie Kinnaird supported a bill last session that would have changed the law, but it never got to a vote.
"Probably because it was an election year. When you have an election year bill, you really have people worried about attack ads and perhaps that is the saddest commentary of all in our society," she said.
Current state law increases penalties for hate crimes against race, color, religion, or national origin. Kinnaird wanted to expand the law after Matthew Shepard, a former Raleigh resident and University of Wyoming student, was killed because he was gay.
However, some state lawmakers believe expanding the law is not necessary.
"The crime you talk about is reprehensible and the people who do those type of things need to be punished and punished severely, but presently there is enough punishment on the books to take care of those people who commit those crimes," said Rep. Leo Daughtry.
Police said a witness did come forward in the Chapel Hill case, but the person did not shed any new light on the case. Police have not named any suspects.