Bill Raising Penalties for "Prejudice" Crimes gets Senate Panel OK

LITTLE ROCK, AR - There's no mention of race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry in a bill approved by an Arkansas Senate panel that would boost penalties for so-called "hate crimes."  Instead, the measure by Senator Hank Wilkins IV of Pine Bluff targets crimes committed against victims because of their "behaviour or characteristics."

The words and phrases usually associated with discrimination and prejudice...race, religion, etc....were originally specified as reasons for enhancing penalties for crimes listed in the measure.  But Wilkins said he stripped the bill of those "buzz words" to try to win the support from a traditionally skeptical House.

Wilkins said the main sticking point has been about homosexuals, and the religious right has often attacked hate-crime legislation on the basis of that, or said that it wasn't needed.

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