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State House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus calls for action after brutal murder of local transgender teen

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania House LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus is calling for action after the brutal murder of Pauly Likens, 14, of Mercer County, who identified as a transgender girl.

>> Man charged with killing, dismembering missing 14-year-old in Mercer County

Police say Pauly was murdered and dismembered by DaShawn Watkins, 29. Some of Pauly’s remains were found in and around the Shenango River Lake.

The Mercer County District Attorney does not believe Pauly’s murder was a hate crime because Watkins is a gay man, despite local activists calling for hate crime charges.

>> Mercer County DA doesn’t believe brutal murder of transgender teen was a hate crime

The caucus is now pushing for the state Senate to pass House Bill 1027 in response to Pauly’s murder.

A news release says the bill would update Pennsylvania’s Ethnic Intimidation Statute to ensure protections for ”victims targeted because of their race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, and disability, including autism.”

>> LGBTQ+ advocates mourn Mercer County teen as some call for hate crime charges

The bill was passed by the state house in October 2023 but has not yet been considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gov. Josh Shapiro said he would sign a bill to update hate crime laws in response to Pauly’s murder.

The caucus released the following statement:

“We mourn the death of Pauly Likens and refuse to stand idly by while LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians are targeted because of who they are. It’s unacceptable that current hate crime laws in our commonwealth are not applied to crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“As incidents of violent hate crimes continue to rise across the nation, we urge our colleagues in the state Senate to pass H.B. 1027 and send it to the governor’s desk. It’s far past time to update Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute so that charges may reflect the especially heinous nature of hate-based violence.”

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