Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida House approves hate crime protection for the homeless

TALLAHASSEE — Spurred by a 2006 video showing a group of teenagers bashing a homeless man with baseball bats, House lawmakers voted Tuesday to give the homeless added protection under the state's hate crimes law.

The bill would make Florida the second state to give homeless people such protection. Last year, Maryland made a similar change in response to the video showing one of three attacks that left two men injured and a third dead in Broward County.

"Nobody is more vulnerable," said Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs. "They have no place to retreat to. They have no home to retreat to and be safe in."

Responding to critics of the bill, Porth spoke with a group of about 20 Democratic lawmakers standing silently behind him.

Florida's hate crimes law provides for increased penalties if someone is specifically targeted because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. The legislation would add homeless people to that list.

The House voted 80-28 to send the bill to the Senate, where identical legislation has cleared three committees and is ready for debate before the full chamber.

During an emotional 30-minute debate, Rep. Paige Kreegel questioned Porth about the need for the bill. Calling homeless people "bums," the Punta Gorda Republican said they deserve no more protection than ordinary people walking down the street.

"When all the hysteria is put aside, they're already protected," he said, referring to current prohibitions on assault or murder.

The Anti-Defamation League has concerns that adding more categories to the hate crimes law would dilute its effect.

But lawmakers were swayed by arguments in favor of protecting the homeless. Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he used to be homeless about a decade ago and slept on the floor of an office building.

"I understand homelessness," he said. "I understand what it means to wash off in a public bathroom. This bill seeks to protect our weakest."

The 2006 video was evidence against a group of Fort Lauderdale teenagers accused of attacking three homeless men with baseball bats. Two of the men were hospitalized, and the third, 45-year-old Norris Gaynor, died due to his injuries.

"It is disgusting," said Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami. "It is something this state should be ashamed of."

CORRECTION: The Anti-Defamation League has concerns about legislation to add homeless people to Florida's hate crime's law, but did not speak against the bill at committee hearings. An earlier version of this story was incorrect on that point.

Florida House approves hate crime protection for the homeless 04/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 11:49am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hernando County Sheriff's Office: Deputies shoot suicidal woman who brandished shotgun


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies shot a woman they believed to be suicidal after she pointed a shotgun at them Sunday, according to a police report.

  2. Trump administration disbands federal advisory committee on climate change


    WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government's climate analysis into long-term planning.

    President Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
  3. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  5. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]