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Kitowit and advocates discuss hate crimes legislation
by Matt Simonette
2017-06-15

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Elected officials and community leaders gathered at the Chicago headquarters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to discuss the expected impact of HB 2390, recently passed hate crimes legislation that was co-sponsored by state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit ( D-Aurora ).

Among its components, HB 2390 amends the Criminal Code of 2012 to remove caps on restitution for a hate crime as well as an intent requirement for a hate crime that takes place in and/or damages a place of worship. It also requires those convicted of a hate complete community service and an educational program as a condition of probation or discharge of a hate crime.

The bill passed both the House and the Senate, where it was sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans ( D-Chicago ). It next goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his action.

Hate crimes—which Kifowit said were "deliberate acts to promote fear in a community," ultimately "erode the fabric and foundations of our state and country as a whole," she added.

Kifowit further noted that hate crimes offenders "view themselves as strong, but they are weak in character and cowardly. There is no merit in the act of a hate crime."

State Rep. Sam Yingling, who is openly gay, praised HB 2390 and its potential impact on the LGBT community. He said that a third of hate crimes against LGBT individuals take place within their own homes, noting that such a persistent threat contributes to "a huge sense of instability and anxiety."

Caitlyn McEllis, public interest counsel in the Illinois Attorney General's Office, also discussed HB 3711, which she said complements HB 2390. HB 3711, among other facets, adds cyberstalking and sending obscene online messages as hate crimes; the bill addresses "the reality that many hate crimes take place online," McEllis said. That bill also is due for action from Rauner.

Among those also speaking at the conference were Alison Slovin, midwest director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center; attorney Sadia Covert, who helped conceive of the legislation; and state Reps. LaShawn Ford ( D-Oak Park ) and Lisa Hernandez ( D-Cicero ).

"The people here understand that America must become a little bit better for everyone," Ford said.


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