CLEVELAND — Beating someone just because of their sexual orientation is not a hate crime in Ohio. Now, a state lawmaker is aiming to change that.
Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) plans to introduce a bill next week that would make crimes targeting someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability a hate crime.
“A hate crime really applies to a crime committed against someone who is sending a message to the rest of the people in that community that their kind, if you will, is not wanted,” Antonio said.
The lack of Ohio’s hate crime law for crimes against people who are gay came to light after an openly gay man was attacked by a mob of young people over Labor Day weekend.
Jared Fox, 26, was badly beaten by the mob as he walked to Cocktails on Cleveland’s west side on August 31.
The vicious attack was caught on the bar’s surveillance cameras.
Fox said the men robbed, punched and stomped him, while calling him anti-gay slurs.
A juvenile was arrested and charged with assault and robbery, but could not be charged with a hate crime.
“I think it’s especially important that we raise our consciousness this year, because in 2014, as many people are aware, the Gay Games are coming to Northeast Ohio, and we want to be an open, welcoming and safe place for people who are going to be coming from all over the world,” Antonio said.
Ohio is just one of 14 states that does not have laws addressing hate-based crimes against people who are gay or transgender.
“I’m scared. I mean, I can’t believe that we didn’t have this a long time ago,” said James Foster, the bar manager at Cocktails.
According to the most recent FBI statistics, in 2011, there were 228 hate crimes in Ohio. Of those, 25 percent, or a quarter of all hate crimes, were based on sexual orientation.
A similar bill was introduced before, but died in committee.
“We’re not bad people. We give back to the community. So I think this time around, it’s going to pass,” gay rights advocate Ric Scardino said.
Antonio is currently looking for co-sponsors for the bill. She believes it will get bipartisan support.