ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed into law a hate crime bill that his state’s Legislature approved this week.
The bill, spurred by public outrage over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, will allow judges imposing sentences to increase punishment against those who target victims based on perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.
“We saw injustice with our own eyes. Georgians protested to demand action. And state lawmakers, many who are gathered here today, rose to the occasion,” Kemp said at the Georgia State Capitol.
The Governor said that this bill “does not fix every problem, or right every wrong. But this bipartisan legislation is a powerful step forward. It’s a sign of progress, and it’s a milestone worth applauding.”
House Bill 426 passed by the Senate by a vote of 47-6. The House approved it in a 127-38 vote.
Georgia had been one of four states without a hate crime law.
Lawmakers called for changes to the state code to include hate crimes after the shooting death of Arbery, who was killed while jogging. Arbery was Black and the men involved in the shooting are White.
There was an earlier legislative effort in November 2019 after a 16-year-old girl in Gainesville allegedly plotted to attack a historically Black church. She faced a charge of criminal attempt to commit murder, but she didn’t face any hate crime charges.
House Bill 426, drafted during the 2019 session, looked to amend the Georgia state code. A person convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime would face at least three months, but no more than 12 months, in prison. A person convicted of a felony hate crime would face at least two years in prison.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted support for the passage of the bipartisan hate crime bill on Tuesday afternoon, calling it a “proud and historic moment in our state.”