Photograph of letters spelling "No Hate." Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

It is generally accepted that having a diverse workforce can lead to a higher return on business investment. Greater workplace diversity can result in a higher level of innovation due to the synergy that results from having people with different backgrounds and experiences work together on a common goal. This is especially true in the tech industry.

Maryland has become a tech hub in its own right that benefits from attracting talent of all colors, ethnicities, religions and sexual persuasions. Proclaiming Maryland’s commitment to eradicating hate in our communities is one of the most important things our General Assembly can do to continue to promote the diversity we need to do business in Maryland.

Today I testified in support of legislation sponsored by Maryland Delegate Mark Chang to strengthen Maryland’s hate crimes law. Enacting these proposed amendments would close a loophole in the law that makes it very hard to convict purveyors of hate and serve as a deterrent to groups and individuals who propagate hate.

Below is my testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee supporting this important change to Maryland’s hate crime law.

Submitted to the House Judiciary Committee

Testimony Concerning HB 005

“Crimes - Hate Crimes - Use of an Item or a Symbol to Threaten or Intimidate”

January 16, 2020

Position: Support

Members of the Judiciary Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Roberto Veloso. I am an attorney in Annapolis, Maryland and am also the current Chair of the Anne Arundel County Human Relations Commission. In that capacity, I lead the County Commission working to promote the fair and equal treatment of all County residents and to counteract racism, discrimination, intolerance and hate incidents in the County.

I come before you today to urge you to enact HB 5, not only to strengthen the State of Maryland’s hate crimes law, by making it easier for law enforcement to charge and prosecutors to convict individuals who use symbols of hate to threaten and intimidate, but also to proclaim the State’s commitment to eradicating hate in our communities.

Hate crimes pose a far greater danger to our communities than most people realize. When a hate incident is perpetrated, regardless of whether it meets the legal definition of a hate crime, the victim of the hate suffers injury, sometimes physical, sometimes psychic. The community also suffers collective harm. By sowing the seeds of social discord, perpetrators of hate incidents heighten the levels of distrust and animosity among different groups in our communities. As a result, we tend to forget that we have far more things in common than differences.

Enacting HB5 will encourage members of our communities, who are victims of hate incidents, to continue to work with police and prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable. It is unreasonable for our society to expect that those in our community who suffer the disproportionate burden of hate will continue to come forward to face their tormentors in court, subject their personal lives to the scrutiny of the media, suffer further trauma during cross examinations and arguments at trial, only to be told by a judge, “Sorry, despite the heinous event you experienced because of the color of your skin, your religion, where you came from or your preference for who you love, it doesn’t meet the definition of a hate crime under Maryland law.”

Colbert King, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, said it well when he wrote on January 3rd of this year:

Hate thrives with silence. It shrivels from attention and activism.

Enacting HB 5 will help ensure that victims of hate incidents continue to courageously step forward so that law enforcement, prosecutors, local government and community groups can continue to bring the necessary attention and activism to win the hearts and minds of our communities, defeat the symptom of hate crimes and the underlying disease of racism.

For these reasons, I urge you to enact HB 005. Thank you for your time and attention.

Copyright © Roberto Veloso, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved.