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Legislative Memo: Civil Remedy for Bias Incidents

This bill would provide the missing legal mechanism for victims of bias-related violence or intimidation to initiate a civil action against the perpetrator. It would also provide for the reimbursement of reasonable attorney’s fees.

Bias crimes/incidents are acts motivated by prejudice and hatred. These acts affect the fundamental rights of the victim, as well as the group of which the victim is, or is perceived to be, a member.

The consequences of bias crime reach beyond the harm inflicted on an individual. Such acts also provoke fear and suspicion among the members of similarly situated minority groups. Bias crimes/incidents, therefore, pose a unique danger to society.

In New York, where diversity is regarded as one of our greatest strengths, these acts undermine the very fabric of our pluralistic society and diminish our collective strength. Bias crimes/incidents cannot be condoned or ignored.

Anti-bias crime legislation serves three distinct purposes. First, such laws protect the right of individuals to be free from random violence against their person or property.

Second, these laws serve to deter hate crime by discouraging people from acting upon their biases, and to punish violent behavior. Finally, anti-bias legislation serves as a statement of abhorrence of all violence motivated by prejudice. This bill would further all three of these goals by providing for a civil action to be taken against the perpetrator.

The NYCLU strongly supports its passage.

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Civil Liberties Union