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Senator Borrello Argues Against Bill That Bans Symbols of Hate

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After a publicly owned fire truck displayed a confederate flag during a parade in Suffolk County, State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) and Assemblymember Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont), crafted S.4615A/A.5402:

Prohibit the selling or displaying of symbols of hate on public property: Expanding on legislation enacted last year (S.8298B), the bill will prohibit municipal corporations, towns, cities, villages, fire districts, volunteer fire companies, or police departments from selling or displaying symbols of hate, except when the display is for educational or historical purposes.”

“”In the past year, we have seen hatred and hate fueled violence explode across the country, and it takes us all working together, speaking with one voice, to say that hate has no place in our community, and we will fight back against it every step of the way,” said bill sponsor Senator Anna M. Kaplan. “Public property belongs to all of us, and this measure is critical to ensure that our public property isn’t used to promote hatred. I’m proud that we passed this vital piece of legislation through the Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and I look forward to my partner Assemblymember Solages passing it in the Assembly soon so that it can be signed into law this year. It’s simply too important, and we can’t wait any longer to get it done.”

State Senator George Borello, a Republican from the 57th district, voted against the bill and took to the Senate floor to explain his rationale:

“I certainly understand the intent of this piece of legislation, but I would like to draw your attention to some of the amendments here, particularly line 10 where it says symbols of hate shall include, but not be limited to symbols of white supremacy and so on and so forth,” Borrello said. “My question is, ‘but not be limited to.’ Who determines then what is determined a symbol of hate?”

Borello’s contemporaries were baffled by his arguments about the language of this latest bill seeking to stomp out hate symbols that define hate crime. Borello voted yes to the bills predecessor, S.8298B, which Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria and deputy Senate majority leader addressed:

“First of all I would encourage the good Senator to read more thoroughly the bills he votes on because the language is exactly the same as the bill he voted yes on,” Gianaris said. “It included the same exact definition of what a symbol of hate is, including the definition of ‘but not limited to,’ which you seem to be concerned about.”

Borello responded to his Democratic colleague with language that spoke to the nuance of his opposition to the bill:

“So I guess I’m still unclear because we’ve seen people who’ve considered the flag of the United States to be a symbol of hate, and I don’t see anywhere in this bill where we limited this,” Borrello said. “If this bill had limited to just white supremacy, neo-Nazi ideology and the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, that’s one thing. But it’s very broad and we still don’t really know what governing body gets to determine. If this bill said we’re going to create a commission to outline or to be some kind of adjudicatory body over what is a symbol of hate, that might be different. But this is very vague. It’s a poorly drafted piece of legislation in my opinion.”

The legislation passed the Senate with a vote of 56-7, and now goes on to the Assembly where it is expected to be taken up by the Rules committee soon.

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