OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill on April 6 that will strengthen the prosecution of hate crimes and require rehab programs for offenders.
SB 5623 was sponsored by state Sen. Manka Dhingra and will change the “physical injury” portion of the definition of a hate crime to “assault.”
Under current Washington state law, a physical injury to the victim is required for prosecutors to charge a hate crime, but assaults meant to intimidate and demean—like spitting on someone—will now be grounds for prosecution as a hate crime.
“Hate crimes are horrific acts of violence that do more than affect individual victims—they make whole communities feel unwelcome,” said Dhingra. “These crimes are corrosive to our society, and we need to have the proper tools available to protect survivors and ensure that courts can effectively supervise offenders in completing rehabilitative programs when those are needed.”
An amendment offered by Dhingra in the Senate makes a further change to the text of the underlying statute by replacing the word “swastika” with the more precise “Nazi emblem, symbol, or Hakenkreuz.” The swastika, Sanskrit for “that which makes all well,” has been a sacred, auspicious symbol to many faith communities—Hindus, Buddhists and Jains—for more than 4,000 years.
“As an Indian American, the swastika is something that I have always felt conflicted about,” said Dhingra. “Diwali, a celebration of light over darkness, or good over evil, often brings Hindu practitioners to post the swastika on their windows and doorways as a symbol of good fortune and peace. This has led to hate crimes in my community due to a lack of knowledge and tolerance of cultural identity.
“This small change in the text of the bill is a critical step in correcting the abuse of a centuries-old sacred symbol.”
The bill takes effect on July 23.