Kemp’s office said he would sign the bill pending legal review.
If he does, Georgia would no longer be one of four states without hate crime legislation. The other states include South Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas.
The bill, HB 426, passed the state Senate by a vote of 47-6 and the state House of Representatives by a vote of 127-38.
Previous efforts to pass hate crimes legislation in Georgia have failed. In 2000, the Georgia General Assembly passed a hate crimes bill that enhanced sentences for crimes motivated by “bias or prejudice.”
But, that bill was struck down by the George Supreme Court as unconstitutionally vague in 2004.
The state house passed a clarified hate crimes bill last year, but it stalled in a Senate committee. Then, the legislature adjourned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, since the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February, there has been a “newfound resurgence of interest in making sure Georgia gets this on the books,” Georgia Representative Karen Bennett said.
State Senator Bill Coswert called the bill’s passage “historic.”
Senator Donzella James commented, “It’s time for Georgia to rise up and show that we will not stand for crimes done out of hate. Yes, we cannot legislate love, but we can put stronger penalties in place that may deter those who are committing these crimes from doing it.”
If passed, the bill would enhance sentencing for those 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.”
This means that offenders would be subject to additional prison time and/or fines on top of the sentences for the crime of which the defendant was convicted.
The bill would also require law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes data.
The bill was passed the same day as the funeral for Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot dead by a police officer in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta.
In a statement, the Democratic Party of Georgia said, “We are thrilled that this [hate crimes] law has finally passed after years of advocacy, but let’s be clear – 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.”
This summary was prepared by TCR News Intern Michael Gelb.