An Analysis of State Hate Crime Legislation: Do Legislative History Documents Hold the Key to Hate Crime Law Reform?



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Hate crime legislation in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, with California passing the first hate crime law in the country in 1978. Since, nearly every state has adopted some form of hate crime legislation. Many have amended those laws in subsequent years. Prior scholarship has investigated how state hate crime laws were adopted in the U.S., examining the potential influence of Internal Determinants (state-specific characteristics/focus) and Regional Diffusion (actions/attributes of other states). These studies found that the hate crime law adoption process is a complex blend of these two types of factors. Prior work, though, has not examined legislative history documents to determine their potential usefulness for adding to our understanding of states’ hate crime law adoption processes. This dissertation provides a content analysis of legislative history documents accompanying hate crime laws in nine states and Washington, DC. Focus is placed solely on laws that establish protected classes and penalty enhancements, as they form the foundation for all other hate crime statutes a state has. Analyses determine the presence of Internal Determinants and Regional Diffusion in states’ legislative history documents. Most legislative history documents are solely bill drafts and records of legislative actions taking place. Other portions of these documents, though, shed light on the role Internal Determinants and Regional Diffusion play in most of the selected states’ hate crime law adoption processes. A general approach emerged for the states in the sample. Much can continue to be learned from legislative history documents accompanying states’ hate crime laws. Advocacy efforts and states themselves should focus their attention on how other states adopted their hate crime laws when looking to expand their own legislation.



Hate crime, Hate crime law, Hate crime law reform, Legislative history documents, Content analysis