PA Supreme Court Will Decide Fate of State’s “Hate Crimes” Law

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and attorneys with the Foundation for Moral Law, representing several Pennsylvania Christians, argued in a brief filed on March 17 in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the state legislature violated the state constitution in 2002 when it added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s “hate crimes” law–under the title “ethnic intimidation.” (Read the legal brief here.)

Judge Roy Moore said about this important case:

“There is a dangerous trend surfacing in other countries and here in America where governments are trying to make it illegal to speak out against homosexuality, even when such an immoral lifestyle is publicly paraded in the streets. In their rush to be Pennsylvania’s thought police, the legislature broke their own state’s constitutional rules. God alone has the ability to see, and the right to judge, the hearts and minds of men.”

When Michael Marcavage, Mark Diener, Randall and Linda Beckman, Susan Startzell, Arlene Elshinnawy, and Nancy Major were arrested and charged with the crime of “ethnic intimidation” (18 Pa. C.S. § 2710) for evangelizing at a Philadelphia homosexual parade in 2004, they brought this case, Marcavage v. Rendell, arguing that legislative procedures used to pass the “hate crimes” amendment (Act No. 2002-143, HB 1493) violated several provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania agreed and struck down the law.

The Pennsylvania Governor and legislators appealed and filed their briefs on February 11, 2008.

Together with Pennsylvania attorney Aaron D. Martin, the Foundation argued to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the legislature’s altering of an “agricultural crop destruction” bill into an amendment to the “ethnic intimidation” law–making crimes motivated by “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” and other classes subject to greater punishment–violated Article III, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: “No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose.”

The Foundation also argued that hiding such a controversial amendment under the guise of “ethnic intimidation” was deceptive to both lawmakers and the public alike. While the original ethnic intimidation law enhanced penalties for crimes committed because of “race, color, religion, or national origin,” characteristics that a reasonable person would consider “ethnic,” the legislature’s addition of “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” and other classes were improperly and deceitfully bundled in the “ethnic intimidation” law.

The Foundation called on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s decision that the “ethnic intimidation” amendment was unconstitutional and should be struck down.

The Foundation for Moral Law is a non-profit, religious liberties organization located in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to restoring the knowledge of God in law and government through litigation and education relating to moral issues and religious liberty.