Assembly committee dumps hate crime bill

Kopp, who is Jewish, said several Rules Committee members were opposed to a clause in the resolution that denounces hate crimes against homosexuals.

The lawmakers earlier had asked Kopp to remove the clause before it came back for a vote.

"I started reflecting on it and in my quiet moments I thought, `well, that's nonsense,'" Kopp said. "I want [them] to vote up or down on the bill as is."

The resolution, with its controversial clause, garnered only five yes votes on Thursday of last week, one vote shy of the requisite six needed to get to the Assembly floor. The other four republicans and two democrats abstained.

Assemblyman Keith Olberg, R-San Bernardino, who withheld his vote, explained that he had not yet read the bill and wanted to be sure that it didn't contradict existing hate crime laws.

Olberg maintains that he does not support hate crimes committed against gays or lesbians, but merely was concerned with the bill's language.

Assemblyman Joe Baca, D-San Bernadino, who Kopp said had concurred that the sexual orientation clause should be removed, also withheld his vote. Baca did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Kopp called the failure of his bill, SCR47, "irrational" and "peculiar," but said it does not change existing statutes in the California Penal Code that prohibits hate crimes, including those committed against gays.

Even though the resolution does not call for specific punishments for hate crimes, Kopp said it is an important "overall public statement and denunciation by the people of California" and "a valuable contribution toward fighting crime."

Kopp will ask Rules Committee members for reconsideration after "address[ing] their reasons for abstention and if they're honest about objecting to [the denunciation] of crimes on account of homosexuality. But I will not delete."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.