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California led the nation in 1991 by enacting criminal sanctions for the violation of civil rights laws. The laws provide enhanced sentences for those convicted of violent or threatening behavior based on race, gender, religion, age, disabilities or sexual preference. The tougher penalties and higher civil awards were authored by Lockyer when he was Senate President Pro Tem of the California Legislature.

The Ralph Civil Rights Act was enacted as part of the Civil Code of California to address the problem of racial, ethnic, religious and minority violence by providing civil and administrative remedies for those who are victims of violence directed against any particular class of persons.

If you are a victim you can either file a private lawsuit in the appropriate court, or you can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Civil Rights Enforcement Section or with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. If you chose to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing you must do so no later than one year after your Ralph Act rights have been violated.

The Bane Civil Rights Act protects people from continued violence or the threat of violence based on grounds such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or position in a labor dispute. The court may grant an injunction prohibiting further intimidating or coercive behavior against you. Any violation of this order is a misdemeanor and may result in fines or imprisonment. If a judgment is awarded in your favor in a private lawsuit, you may receive reasonable attorney's fees as well.

State law authorizes and encourages cities and counties to establish local human relations commissions to preserve peace among citizens of different races, religions, and national origins. If your community has such a commission, it will be listed in your telephone directory. You may wish to seek its assistance to address hate violence.

If you are a victim or a witness to any of the activities described by these statutes, contact your local police or sheriffs department. If criminal action is taken and you are a victim you may nevertheless pursue injunctive relief. The Bane Act provides that victims may pursue either civil remedies or criminal penalties or both. Complaints also may be filed with the Attorney General's Civil Rights Enforcement Section.

California in 1998 enacted a law that makes the offense of vandalism because of a person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation, punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony. (Statutes of 1998, Chapter 850)

Other statutes enacted recently add gender to the list of felony hate crimes for which enhanced penalties may apply (Statutes of 1998, Chapter 933); and add school property to the list of sites for which felony or misdemeanor penalties may apply when any person who burns or desecrates a cross or other religious symbol, knowing it to be a religious symbol, for the purpose of terrorizing the owner or occupant or in reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing the owner of occupant (Statutes of 1998, Chapter 414).

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If you have any questions, please contact the Public Inquiry Unit of the California Department of Justice at
(800) 952-5225; outside California, (916) 322-3360.

If you choose to file a complaint with the California Department of Justice, please complete and submit your complaint form to:

California Department of Justice
Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

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2001-2002 Legislation Link to Official California Legislative Information to get updates on state legislation by entering the phrase "hate crime" or "civil rights" in the search box.

1999-2000 Legislation - Pending Legislation

SB 44 (Polanco) This bill would clarify that government agencies may engage in public sector outreach programs, including focused outreach and recruitment of minority groups and women. The measure was vetoed on July 28, 1999.

SB 66 (Murray) This bill would require the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to include instruction on racial and cultural diversity.

SB 78 (Murray) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99), would require the California Highway Patrol to prepare an annual report for four years, beginning July 1, 2000, on motorist stops. The report specifies data to be collected, including the number of motorists stopped for all traffic enforcement purposes and based on visual observation the race or ethnicity of the individual stopped. Local law enforcement in eight counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, San Diego and San Francisco) is required to provide annual data for the report in 2002 and 2003. City and county law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions must provide data for the report in 2003 and 2004.

SB 80 (Hayden) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99), would establish the California Commission on Combating Hate Crime Groups and the Attorney General's Commission on Hate Crime Prevention and Prosecution. Each commission would receive $100,000 to study and report on specific aspects of hate violence and prevention.

SB 513 (Alarcon) This bill would remove the current $50,000 combined limit on actual damages and administrative fines that may be awarded by the Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

SB 846 (Escutia) This bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to lead an effort to review compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act with specific steps to be taken. The bill also directs the Department of Rehabilitation to review its order of selection process to ensure continuity of services and prevent suspending services to new applicants.

SB 850 (Hayden) Existing law makes it a misdemeanor to willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege under law on the basis of the person's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation, or because he or she perceives that the other person has one or more of those characteristics. This bill would also make it a crime to willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress or threaten any other person because the person associates with someone who has one or more of those characteristics.

SB 1098 (Burton) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/7/99) would enact various changes to the landlord-tenant law regarding rental applications and amends state rent control law concerning vacancies created by a landlord's refusal to accept Section 8 housing payments, and protects tenant advisors.

SB 1148 (Burton) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/8/99) would bar declarations pertaining to a common interest development from containing restrictive covenant that discriminates in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, marital status, disability, national origin or ancestry.

SB 1185 (Johnston) This bill, enacted as Chapter 311, Stats. 1999, would clarify the definition of "genetic characteristic" for purposes of the laws prohibiting discrimination based on a medical condition to refer to the propensity of a person to develop a disease or disorder because of a gene or chromosome, and not those persons who are currently ill.

AJR 26 (Honda) This resolution, passed by the Legislature (8/26/99) urges the federal government to fully investigate all allegations of security breaches at national weapons laboratories and all retaliatory actions and discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans at those facilities. The resolution asks the President, Congress and every American to avoid sweeping all Asian Pacific Americans into false characterizations and stereotypes.

AB 208 (Knox) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/7/99), would provide for the penalty of life without parole for the intentional first-degree murder of a person because of their actual or perceived disability, gender or sexual orientation.

AB 222 (Kuehl) This bill would prohibit discrimination and harassment against gay and lesbian students and those students perceived to be gay or lesbian. The measure also would add sexual orientation to the basis on which discrimination is prohibited relating to employment and advancement of teachers and classified school employees, school district residency requirements, specified postsecondary financial aid programs, employers in work-study programs and the operation of alternative schools, charter schools or interscholastic athletics.

AB 407 (Cedillo) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/9/99) would declare that the existing Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based upon immigration status and adds immigration status to the list of expressly protected categories under the Unruh Act and the hate crime provisions in the Civil Code.

AB 537 (Kuehl, Hertzberg and Villaraigosa) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99) would provide that it is the policy of the State of California to afford all persons in public school and postsecondary institutions equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their sexual orientation. The bill also would prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation in any program or activity conducted by any educational institution or postsecondary institution that receives or benefits from state financial assistance or enrolls students who receive state student financial aid.

AB 633 (Steinberg) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99), would make changes in the enforcement of wage and hour requirements for garment workers, including extending the time for filing a complaint. The bill also would prohibit discharge or discrimination against an employee who makes a complaint to the employer's representative or for cooperating with any federal or state enforcement agencies or private firms conducting audits.

AB 741 (Pacheco, Hertzberg, Steinberg and Sen. McPherson) This bill would appropriate $5 million for grants to counties to support the prosecution of hate crimes. The grants would be issued by the Office of Criminal Justice Safety and require a report to the Legislature by January 1, 2002.

AB 1001 (Villaraigosa) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99) would move the provisions prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation from the Labor code to the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and codify case law which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

AB 1652 (Committee on Labor and Employment: Steinberg, chair) This bill, passed by the Legislature (9/10/99) would require the Labor Commissioner to develop a notice containing a clear explanation of each type of discrimination prohibited by the Labor Code and the legal remedy provided in law for such discrimination.

AB 1670 (Committee on Judiciary: Kuehl, chair) This omnibus bill, passed by the Legislature (9/9/99), would make several changes to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Civil Code relating to employment and housing discrimination. Key provisions would increase the amount of damages and administrative fines that may be awarded by the Fair Employment and Housing Commission; extend harassment protections under FEHA to contract workers; require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers; clarify that protections against housing and employment discrimination cover discrimination based on a victim's perceived membership in a protected class; and expand the class of employers subject to FEHA's prohibition against discrimination on the basis of mental disability from those with 15 or more employees to those with 5 or more employees.

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Link to the Library of Congress website to get updates on federal legislation by entering the phrase "hate crime" in their search box.

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To access state laws link to these sites

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U.S. Department of Justice   |   U.S. Senate   |   U.S. House of Representatives

Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment ("Title VII"), public accommodations, and education and by programs which receive federal financial assistance.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in all types of housing transactions. The Fair Housing Act applies not only to actions by direct providers of housing such as landlords and real estate companies, but also to actions by municipalities, banks, insurance companies, and other entities whose discriminatory practices make housing unavailable to persons because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or familiar status. The statute authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to bring lawsuits to address discriminatory policies or "patterns and practices" and also creates a mechanism by which individuals may file a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Americans With Disabilities Act makes it unlawful for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate against qualified employees on the basis of a disability. Reasonable accommodation must be provided unless it would pose an undue hardship to an employer. The federal law also requires employers qualifying as "public accommodations," private entities providing public transportation, and any business that constructs new facilities or alters existing ones. The ADA further requires that access be provided to disabled individuals.

Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. Section 241, prohibits conspiracies with a purpose to injure, threaten or intimidate one or more persons from the free exercise or enjoyment of a right secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

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