“A historic moment”: Georgia Legislature passes hate crimes bill
The Georgia legislature, spurred by public outrage over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, on Tuesday approved a hate crime bill that will allow enhanced criminal penalties for people who target others because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or other reasons.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s communications director tweeted that Kemp would sign the bill, pending legal review.
According to the Georgia State Senate press office, HB 426 passed by a vote of 47-6 and was immediately transmitted to the House.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb said it then passed the House for final passage by a vote of 127-38.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the southern division for the Anti-Defamation League, which has pushed for a hate crime law in the state for decades, told CBS News she is “thrilled” with the bill’s passage.
“Both chambers, both sides of the aisle, are standing up to bias and bias-motivated crimes and saying they want to protect their citizens,” Padilla-Goodman said.
South Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas also remain without hate crime laws. Some advocates including the ADL also include Indiana on the list, calling a law passed in that state last year “problematically broad.”
Ahmaud Arbery’s killing, captured on a disturbing video, drew a national outcry. The two suspects, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, told police they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect. Two and a half months passed before they were charged with murder. An investigator later testified that Travis McMichael was heard using a racial slur as Arbery lay dying.
Republican Senator Bill Coswert called the bill’s passage a “historic” moment.
“I think we’re really at sort of a tipping point right now, 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,” Coswert said.
Bipartisan support for the bill was uncertain after Republican lawmakers included a measure protecting “first responders”. However, an agreement was met to remove the statute from the hate crime bill, and place it into a separate bill according to a local news outlet.
“At a time when our nation feels so divided, Georgia is bringing forth a moment of unity,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said in a statement Tuesday. “This collaborative effort has produced a strong, meaningful hate crimes bill that protects people in targeted groups and send a strong statement about our values.”