Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp signed the State’s first hate crime bill into law on Friday. The bill adds enhanced penalties against defendants who are motivated by race, sex, disability, or other similar categories.
Kemp signed HB 426 in a signing ceremony in the state capital, affirming “a simple but powerful motto: Georgia is a state too great to hate.” The law adds enhanced penalties for defendants who choose their victims based on “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.” If one of these categories served to motivate the crime, a judge could impose up to two additional years in prison and up to $5,000 in additional fines.
Georgia has tried to pass hate crimes legislation before, most notably in 2004, but that law was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court as too vague. New hate crimes legislation had been stuck in the Georgia legislature for some time until the recent killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February by three white men spurred the legislature to act. With the passage of HB 426, the only remaining states without a hate crime law are South Carolina, Wyoming, and Arkansas.
Arbery’s murder is one of several recent deaths that have prompted widespread protests against systemic racism and police brutality in recent weeks.