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In a 'historic' move, the Georgia legislature just passed a hate crimes bill

In a 'historic' move, the Georgia legislature just passed a hate crimes bill

Georgia was one of four states yet to pass a law against hate crimes. After 14 years of advocacy, they have finally done it.

After several years of advocacy, the state of Georgia has finally passed a bill against hate crimes. The state Legislature sent a bill to be signed by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday afternoon, CBS News reports. Once it is signed into law, Georgia will officially leave a small group of states that still do not have laws against hate crimes. There is no doubt that the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery by two armed white men ignited the decision. Passing in the state Senate in a 47-6 vote and the state House in a 127-38 vote, bill HB 426 is a piece of landmark legislation.



 

 

Governor Kemp's office announced that he would sign the bill once it has undergone legal review. In the meantime, advocates are taking a moment to celebrate the small victory. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the southern division for the Anti-Defamation League, is one of them. Her organization has pushed for anti-hate crime laws for decades now; she said she was "thrilled" by the bill's passage. She said, "Both chambers, both sides of the aisle, are standing up to bias and bias-motivated crimes and saying they want to protect their citizens." Republican Senator Bill Cowsert said this was a "historic" moment for the state of Georgia. "I think we're really at sort of a tipping point right now," he stated. "And this has been brought about by some of the recent events that have been put visually in front of us on video that are impossible to defend."



 

 

The bill mandates enhanced sentencing for those convicted of targeting an individual because of their "actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability." A conviction as per the bill could potentially result in further prison time or fines in addition to sentences for the type of crime—such as manslaughter or murder—for which the defendant was booked. It has been suggested that the bill received such positive backing due to "newfound resurgence of interest in making sure Georgia gets this on the books," Georgia Representative Karen Bennett, chairwoman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, shared last month.



 

 

Previously, the state attempted to pass bills against hate crimes to no avail. In the year 2000, the Georgia general assembly introduced a bill that would implement enhanced sentencing for crimes motivated by "bias or prejudice." Sadly, this bill was struck down four years later by the Georgia Supreme Court which claimed that it was "unconstitutionally vague." HB 426 was developed with more specific language and gained bipartisan support. It passed in the Georgia House last year by a narrow margin before it was stalled in a Senate committee due to the ongoing pandemic.



 

 

Nonetheless, the bill has finally passed. It does not, however, erase the several years of delays that activists faced. "We are thrilled that this [hate crimes] law has finally passed after years of advocacy," Georgia Democrats affirmed in a statement. "But let's be clear—we will not forget that this bill only came to light after 14 years of delays under Republican leadership, the murder of Black men before our eyes, and the pain of marginalized communities across our state." Now, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Arkansas are the only states that remain without laws against hate crimes. We wonder who will be last.



 

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