By Philip Van Slooten, CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE
ANNAPOLIS, MD — An update to Maryland’s hate crimes law, named for slain Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, is one of several anti-discrimination measures going into effect Oct. 1. Other notable bills address crime, the environment and healthcare, including an infectious disease mandate named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland freshman who died during a 2018 campus outbreak.
Collins’ Law – HB917/SB606. Sponsored by Delegate C. T. Wilson, D-Charles, and Sen. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George’s, this hate crimes update was named in honor of the Bowie State University ROTC candidate who was murdered by Sean Urbanski at a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop in 2017.
“He was a young rising star, a young military officer about to be commissioned,” state Sen. William C. Smith Jr., D-Montgomery, said of Collins, who was Black.
While Urbanski, who is white, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019, the judge failed to find enough evidence to convict under the state’s hate crime law at the time.
“The standard, the fact he didn’t actually utter a certain phrase, was not enough to convict him of a hate crime as well,” Smith explained. “So, we changed the standard to allow the prior activity to be enough to prove intent. We were able to give that small peace of mind to the family.”
Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, also wanted to highlight Collins’ law as an important piece of legislation enacted last session.
“Particularly in this time when the national environment is certainly very fraught,” Lam said. “There have been concerns about populations and individuals who feel they may be targeted due to their race, color, gender or orientation. To make sure the hate crimes statute covers them is particularly important. They’re all people, after all.”
Below are a few other bills enacted last session and going into effect Thursday. They are grouped by category.
Fair Housing – HB231/SB50. The HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Act, whose sponsors include Smith and Delegate Brooke E. Lierman, D-Baltimore, expands Maryland’s fair housing policy by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their source of income, to include government subsidized housing vouchers, when renting or selling property.
“I think this law will unleash economic opportunity for thousands of families across Maryland,” said Smith. “A vast majority who have vouchers and are single mothers.”
Employment Opportunity – HB1444/SB531. Known as the CROWN Act, this law bans employment descrimination due to racial perceptions regarding hair texture or style by expanding the state’s legal definition of race. Bill sponsors included Sen. Smith and Delegate Stephanie M. Smith, D-Baltimore.
“The problem globally is a number of men and women who wear traditional hairstyles associated with the Black race have suffered discrimination in the workplace about ‘professional’ hairstyles,” Sen. Smith explained. “If they refused to change, they wouldn’t be hired or promoted. It’s something a number of Black men and women think about every single day