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Homeless Could Be Added to CA Hate Crime Laws

Attacks against the homeless are no different than racially or ethnically motivated crimes and should be added to hate crime laws, carrying with them stiffer prison terms.

That's what California homeless advocates argue and they are seeking ways to protect homeless from crime by supporting a new state bill, the Associated Press reports.

A new Assembly bill would give homeless people or public interest groups on their behalf, the right to seek redress by suing their attackers for civil rights violations.

Advocates say that attacks against the homeless show bias and toward a vulnerable population needing protection under a state hate crimes law. California ranks second in the nation in crimes against the homeless.

So far, hate crime laws have been adopted in Maine, Maryland and Washington D.C.

Florida could become the next state to give homeless people such protections.

Currently, Florida's hate crime law provides for increased penalties if someone is specifically targeted because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. With new legislation pending homeless people would be added to that list.

California's bill aims to do the same thing and make sentences harsher.

Much of the legislation has been prompted by attacks against transients, which started rising with the popularity of videos called "Bumfights." Producers ply homeless people with alcohol in return for doing humiliating acts on videotape.

In Florida, a group of Fort Lauderdale teenagers accused of attacking three homeless men with baseball bats. Two of the men were hospitalized, and the third, 45-year-old Norris Gaynor, died due to his injuries.