A coalition of groups under the moniker of “Hate Free Georgia” is renewing calls for Georgia to pass a hate crimes bill when the legislature returns in January.
At a press conference Friday, speakers from the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and others urged the state Senate to pass House Bill 426 in next year’s session.
Georgia is one of five states without a hate crimes law.
Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of GALEO said that needs to change come 2020.
“We need to stand up unequivocally against white supremacy,” he said, after a moment of silence for those killed in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas last week. “Moving forward with hate crimes legislation is a way for us to do that.”
Gonzalez said the shooting, which killed 22 people, was a “carefully calculated, purposeful hate crime.” The 21-year-old suspect told police he was the shooter and targeted Mexicans, according to an arrest affidavit.
GLAHR community organizer Geovani Serrano said that it’s past time for lawmakers to act.
“We are ready to take a stand,” he said. “Let us unite and show that Georgia is a strong state that welcomes diversity, love and peace for one another.”
HB 426, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), passed the House 96-64 this spring. It calls for strengthened punishments for people convicted of a crime that targets someone based on their “perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.”
The state Senate has not yet voted on the measure.
In addition to the El Paso shooting, ADL regional director Allison Padilla-Goodman said that there are countless examples of shootings targeting minorities, from Christchurch, New Zealand to Charleston, S.C.
“This weekend, the Latinx community was terrorized, and the fear and anxiety, alienation reverberated across the country,” she said. “All marginalized people are literally under attack right now.”
Lawmakers could take up the bill once the 2020 legislative session starts in January.