California law would add homeless hate-crime protection

SACRAMENTO — California's homeless would have enhanced civil rights protections under a bill passed by the state Assembly.

The legislation approved Thursday would add the state's estimated 157,000 homeless to the list of groups protected from hate-based violence.

That would allow them to sue for larger sums of damages if they are targeted in an attack.

The sponsors of AB2706 say California is second in the nation in the rate of violence against homeless people. In 2008, a homeless man was burned alive in Los Angeles.

Most Assembly Republicans voted against the bill, saying homelessness isn't in the same category as race, gender and sexual orientation.

The bill still needs approval from the Senate and the governor's signature before it would become law.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.