GA lawmakers pass hate crime bill following death of Ahmaud Arbery

Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, issued a statement saying he 'commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work'

Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Courthouse on May 8, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael were arrested the previous night and charged with murder. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

In a historic move, Georgia finally passed hate crime legislation for the state.

In a bi-partisan effort, House Bill 426 will mandate enhanced sentencing for defendants convicted of targeting a victim because of their “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.”

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The bill had been previously stalled in Georgia’s legislature, but gained renewed support after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael on February 23. The slaying was caught on video, and investigators testified that Arbery’s killers called him a racial slur after shooting him to death.

“I think we’re really at sort of a tipping point right now,” Republican State Senator Bill Coswert told CBS News, “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 was passed the day after the funeral of Rayshard Brooks who was shot by an Atlanta police officer, Garrett Rolfe on June 12. Rolfe has been fired and charged with murder.

HB 426 would mean offenders could potentially receive additional prison time or fines on top of sentences for the type of crime for which the defendant was convicted, such as manslaughter or murder.

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019, photo Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, right, and Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston. James Byrd Jr. was the victim of what is considered to be one of the most gruesome hate crime murders in recent Texas history. (AP Photo/Juan Lozano) thegrio.com

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019, photo Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, right, and Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston. James Byrd Jr. was the victim of what is considered to be one of the most gruesome hate crime murders in recent Texas history. (AP Photo/Juan Lozano)

The bill was almost stalled again in the legislature after Republicans tried to include police and first responders as protected groups. The addition was struck from the bill on Monday night, and it was put to a passing vote on Tuesday.

Republicans still pushed for the creation of House Bill 838 which would create a “bill of rights” for officers under investigation and would add additional penalties for people convicted of targeting a firefighter, police officer, or paramedic specifically because of their profession.

Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, issued a statement saying he “commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review.”

There are now only three states that still do not have a hate crime legislation, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Arkansas.

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