By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds gathered today in Love Park (JFK Plaza) for a rally to support the gay couple brutally attacked in center city two weeks ago.

In the meantime, a growing coalition of state lawmakers, law enforcement officials, and other leaders are pressing for an amendment to Pennsylvania’s hate-crime law to protect the LGBT community.

“I’m trying not just to be angry — I want to be empowered,” said Brian Sims (at lectern in photo below), Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state representative, who is leading the charge in the state House to pass a statewide amendment that would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to the state’s hate crime laws.

 

(Pa. state rep. Brian Sims addresses an anti-gay-bashing rally in Love Park.  Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Pa. state rep. Brian Sims addresses an anti-gay-bashing rally in Love Park. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

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“Hate crime in the United States is not decreasing, due in part to inaction by states,” Sims said. “Our state has a moral responsibility to address hate crimes, and we remain complicit if we fail to pass hate-crime legislation that protects those of us that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, or those who are perceived to be.”

State senator Larry Farnese is leading the effort in the senate.

“The bills are teed up — they could be moved within a few days,” he said.  “It’s not a big lift.  We can get this done.”

Farnese says he’ll call for a special session on equality if the amendment is not passed this session.

Community leaders say media attention following the September 11th beating of a gay couple in the 1600 block of Chancellor Street is shining the light on the many other hate crimes against LGBT Pennsylvanians that continuously take place — despite federal legislation.

“Many gay-bashing crimes are unsolved, and many more are unnoticed,” said Alicia Gonsalez, executive director of Galaei.

Philadelphia police officials and district attorney Seth Williams spoke at the rally.  Williams said that Philadelphia will not tolerate hate, and anyone responsible will be brought to justice.