Washington legislators have been busy all month long prefiling bills in advance of the 2024 session. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen a bill we can get excited about. However, we’ve seen a lot of bills we don’t like.
Today, Senator Andy Billig dropped SB 5917 “Relating to criminal penalties for bias-motivated defacement of private or public property” This bill will base a “hate crime” off perception, expression, identity. The bill leaves the so-called hate crime wide open to the perception of the “victim.”
The bill reads that a person is guilty of a “hate crime” if the person “writes, paints, or draws any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure, any real or personal property, or any public property unless the person has obtained the express permission of the owner or operator of the property”
“Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. For purposes of this section, a “reasonable person” is a reasonable person who is a member of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or who has the same gender expression or identity, or the same mental, physical, or sensory disability as the victim.”
The bill is loaded with language about “perception”, “expression”, “identity”. For example:
“Gender expression or identity” means having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.”
This bill sounds a lot like what we’ve seen in SB 5427 which sets up a “hate crime hotline” allowing “victims” to receive $2,000 for perceived hate crimes. See the video below for more details on SB 5427, which is a carryover bill from 2023 that we are watching closely in the 2024 session.
It also seems to work alongside some of the components of HB 1333 aka the “ministry of truth” bill that is another carryover we’re watching closely.
Each of these bills alone is very concerning. They are each a direct violation of the 1st Amendment. Washington democrats do not concern themselves with writing and passing unconstitutional policies. They know they are passing so many of them, citizens who attempt to fight them in court can’t possibly keep up. That’s why it’s important for the people to speak up in big numbers before these are passed into law.
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