Hate crime bill back before Florida lawmakers

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:48 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A new hate crime bill, Senate Bill 194, which was prompted in part by the Tallahassee Hot Yoga Shooting, is back before Florida lawmakers this year.

Tallahassee residents remember the shooting from back in 2018 that left two women dead and four other people hurt.

Investigators say that the gunman had a hatred of women. Yet targeting someone because of their gender is not a hate crime in Florida.

That is where SB 194 comes in.

This amendment to Florida’s current Hate Crime law would expand current legislation to include crimes based on gender, gender identity, and physical disabilities. It would also apply to cases that are considered to have mixed motives, one of them, being hate-driven.

Jeff Binkley took the podium Tuesday during a Senate committee hearing to provide his public comment.

With tears in his eyes, he told the group, “On November 2, 2018 my daughter Maura, then a 21 year old senior, lost her life at a shooting at a Tallahassee hot yoga studio.”

That was the night that shook Tallahassee forever.

Binkley, the father of victim Maura Binkley, says evidence and police reports all point to his daughter’s death, being the result of hatred towards her gender.

Currently, that does not fall under a hate crime.

“If you are going to address any evil, including hatred you have to first call it by its name and do it every time it manifests itself,” shares Binkley.

By bringing this bill back to session, Janelle Diaz, founder of a transgender support group called Capital Tea, hopes it protects her and her friends.

“It sets a standard,” shares Diaz, “It says this includes me as a black trans woman, as a trans person. This incident where my friend had gotten punched, it was on social media, and nothing was done.”

But some senators like Jeff Brandes, still raised concerns.

“Does it misdirect us from looking at the bigger issue. Because it allows to feel like we did something, but did we?” he asked.

While others, like Jason Pizzo, say this language is essential, “We need to start recognizing these things, I don’t think if a blind man walking down the street and two 18-year-old kids beat him up and say you blind mother for. Yeah, I think that’s really bad.”

While those working to push this amended bill, wait for the start of the session, they hope the voices of those victims to these crimes, are heard.

“I can hear Maura’s voice,” expressed Binkley, “I hope you can too. Saying please take action today, to recognize, repudiate, and ensure the recording of all, all crimes of hate.”

There are still many layers to unpack with this subject. During the hearing senators raised concerns such as if hate words alone could quantify as a hate crime. They also brought up racially charged FB posts from years ago, if those were to be considered hate crimes?

They also brought up worries with how hate crimes would be applied in various scenarios. Those questions will be addressed beginning at the start of the session, on March 2.

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