COURT UNANIMOUSLY RULES AGAINST LEGISLATURE
IN PENNSYLVANIA THOUGHT CRIMES CASE 12/23/05
HARRISBURG - Yesterday, the Repent America legal challenge against the Pennsylvania "hate crimes" law gained significant momentum with a unanimous decision by a three judge panel in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The Court rejected all of the Commonwealth parties' preliminary objections, propelling the case toward trial and endangering the Commonwealth’s “Ethnic Intimidation” act.
In October of 2004, eleven Christians with Repent America were arrested while ministering the Gospel in the public streets of Philadelphia at a publicly-funded homosexual event called "OutFest". The Christians were jailed and charged under Pennsylvania's thought crimes law called "Ethnic Intimidation", along with a host of other felony and misdemeanor charges, which were all later dismissed.
On April 15, 2005, a "Petition for Review" was filed with the Court (Marcavage, et. al. v. Rendell, et. al.) on behalf of the Pennsylvania Christians who were charged under the "Ethnic Intimidation" act in October of last year.
The petition challenges the unconstitutional actions taken by the Pennsylvania legislature in passing the bill. The legislature illegally amended the original legislation, which sought to prohibit the destruction of farm property, to add language to protect individuals victimized from
crime on the basis of "actual or perceived . . . ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity."
Additionally, the petition further argues that the title of the bill is misleading because the concept of “ethnicity” used in the bill's title does not reasonably include “sexual orientation, gender or gender identity”.
On September 13, 2005, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judges Doris A. Smith-Ribner, Robert Simpson, and James R. Kelley heard the Commonwealth parties' preliminary objections, and issued a unanimous opinion yesterday, rejecting all of the legislature's objections.
"This ruling is a significant victory for the petitioners because most constitutional challenges of this nature that ultimately fail lose at this stage of the litigation," stated Aaron Martin, attorney for the Repent America petitioners. "Now, the Commonwealth defendants must formally account for the legislative process that led to this ill-conceived law regulating thought— a process that was every bit as dubious as the process that led to the recently-repealed legislative pay raise," Martin concluded.
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