FOLLOWING THE pummeling of a gay couple in Rittenhouse Square two weeks ago, City Council is stepping up its efforts to stop hate-fueled attacks on members of the LGBT community.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilman Jim Kenney today will introduce a bill that they say will close a gaping loophole in the Philadelphia Code.

The bill would add a new chapter to the city code, providing stricter penalties for hate crimes fueled by racism and bigotry and that target members of the LGBT community. Kenney said crimes of this nature are not covered by existing state law and are not defined in the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.

"Unless and until the commonwealth of Pennsylvania extends protections to LGBT Pennsylvanians, then Philadelphia has a responsibility to do whatever is in our power to protect our LGBT folks," he said.

"Right now, they are not protected."

Brown agreed, adding: "Philadelphia is known all over the world as a city that celebrates and values diversity. We will not allow a few thugs to tarnish that reputation."