SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia has made history, joining nearly all U.S. states with hate crime laws.
Gob. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 426 Friday afternoon.
Leaders say the tragic case of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick is a big reason both parties came together to make the law a reality.
“We witnessed a horrific hate-filled act of violence, we saw injustice with our own eyes,” Kemp said.
“Today, we stand together as Republicans, Democrats, Black and white to affirm a simple but powerful motto — Georgia is too great to hate,” he added.
The new law provides enhanced penalties for anyone convicted of committing a crime against a person based on their race, religion or sexual orientation.
House Speaker David Ralston said the case of Arber — a young African American man who was jogging, chased by two white men and then shot — brought home the message that the legislature had to do something.
“I have often said that Georgia cannot be great unless Georgia is also good,” he said. “But we can send the message that Georgia is better than what we saw on that awful, sickening, disgusting video.”
Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Democrat from Columbus, called the legislation a defining moment for Georgia.
“And I am one that has seen a lot of legislative initiatives in my 46 years,” he said, “Ahmaud Arbery’s death will not be in vain as an example of what we are doing here today.”
Georgia was one of only four states without a hate crime law on the books, which Duncan said, “was hard for me to explain to my three kids.”
He and others on the Senate side said passing the bill was about doing what’s right for the state.
“Here we are, this is your Georgia,” said Sen. Harold Jones. “The world now sees what Georgia is, what we’ve always known it to be.
“Now the world can see what we always thought Georgia is — the greatest state in the greatest nation.”