GA Hate Crimes Bill Passes State Legislature

‘Dark cloud’ over Georgia ‘being removed’

June 23, 2020
The Georgia Legislature has passed a hate crimes law

(Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/RADIO.COM)

The State of Georgia is a signature away from having a hate crimes law.

The measure which provides protection for people who are targeted due to their race, gender, or sexual orientation, received final passage Tuesday. 

It now awaits the signature of Governor Brian Kemp.

House members had approved HB426 in March of 2019. Yet, the Senate had not passed the bill.

The legislation received new interest amid the uproar across the country about the deaths of blacks at the hands of law enforcement. The lightning rod in Georgia was the death of Ahmaud Arbery in the city of Brunswick. The 25 year old black and unarmed man was chased by 3 white men and was then shot and killed. His accused killers face murder charges.  They were arrested more than 2 months after Arbery’s death, when a video surfaced of the confrontation between them and Arbery.

A bump in the road towards passage happened last Friday when senate republicans attached protection for police officers and other first responders. It passed the upper chamber’s Rules Committee with protection for the new groups.

Georgia NAACP President James Woodall expressed his dismay in an exclusive interview with V103/WAOK’s Maria Boynton. Woodall said that he was “troubled and disturbed by the level of racism that continues in this state.” He said that law enforcement already had protections in the state, while others did not.

Legislative negotiators reached a compromise Monday evening.

Following Monday’s removal of the protection for law enforcement, Senate minority whip Harold Jones told Boynton “we now take crimes based on race and others based on race seriously and those persons will be protected in our state.”

Upon final passage Tuesday, Georgia Democratic Party Chairwoman Senator Nikema Williams said in a statement “Today, the Georgia legislature finally passed a hate crimes bill, after tireless work from advocates across Georgia, and more than a few delays and stunts from Georgia Republicans to hijack this bill.”  Williams was pleased that the law passed after years of advocacy. “But let’s be clear”, she said, “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.

The longest serving lawmaker in the Georgia General Assembly Representative Calvin Smyre called Tuesday “a great day for Georgia.” Smyre added “we are removing a dark cloud hanging over the state.”