The Georgia House on Thursday passed what could become the state’s first hate crimes legislation. Georgia is one of five states that does not currently have such a bill.
“Hate can be used as a tool for evil to undermine the law and order that we take for granted some times,” Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula).
The bill toughens penalties against those convicted of crimes committed “because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, 19 national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability” with a prison sentence of up to 12 months and a maximum fine of $5,000.
“Throughout the history we have seen how hate can be used as a powerful too. It can be used to gain power to a select few. It can be used to intimidate and harass a specific group. It can be used to undermine a government premised on equality and the rights of the people to live in freedom,” said Efsration.
The bill had bipartisan support from three Republicans and three Democrats.
“We’re going to move Georgia forward,” said Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus).
The last time Georgia lawmakers last approved hate crimes law in 2000, but four years later the Georgia Supreme Court later declared the law “unconstitutionally vague.”
“District Attorney’s across the state are asking for this legislation,” Efstration said.
The House passed HB 426 on a 96 to 64 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.