ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hate crimes in Florida are on the rise, according to a report by the FBI.

Recent statistics compiled by the agency show a 51 percent rise in the state from 2016 to 2017, and some worry that number may be even higher.

That’s because the current law doesn’t include all groups that could face discrimination.

Right now, bias crimes committed because of gender, gender identity, or physical disability are not legally considered "hate crimes."

A bill filed ahead of the 2020 legislative session and co-sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo aims to close that loophole. The bill would also include language to protect those victimized by hate crimes of association.

John Boder, president and co-founder of nonprofit 21 and Change, which advocates for people with physical disabilities, supports the effort to close the loopholes.

"We all know what happens when you get in a court of law," Boder said. "Defense lawyer uses the current law as it's written in a manner in which he can get the perpetrator off from having the additional charge of a hate crime."

Boder believes victims who fall into the category of people for whom his organization advocates should be no exception in terms of their protection from hate crimes of association. 

He said he supports change in the law not just for his family, but for other families, as well.

"This is not just about our children," Boder told us. "This is about every other child."

People found guilty of hate crimes face a harsher penalty, and officials on both sides of the aisle agree victims who fall in these categories should be no exception.

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