Update: In a historic move, the Georgia Legislature passed a hate crimes bill on Tuesday, June 23, pending review by Governor Brian Kemp. If signed into law, Georgia will no longer be one of four states without hate crime legislation.
The shooting death of Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, on February 23, 2020, in a Georgia neighborhood by two white men, became another social media hashtag, and headline news story. Like countless other Black men and women, his death served as a painful reminder of racism and the institutional failure to ensure justice for hate crime victims. Although a total of 46 states have statutes to criminalize, various types of “bias-motivated” acts, states such as Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Arkansas do not have hate crime laws and policies in place.
Still mourning the tragic loss of her beloved son, and in response to his death, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, is urging Georgia lawmakers to pass House Bill 426 (HB 426), a hate crimes law. According to the United States Department of Justice, federal hate crimes laws “cover certain crimes committed based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.”
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In an emotional video recently released in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, Arbery’s mother affirmed, “If Georgia had a hate crimes law, Ahmaud’s killers could face additional sentencing for murdering my son because of the color of his skin.” She continued, “As we’ve seen in the protests about George Floyd, Ahmaud is just one of the many Black lives that have been lost due to hatred.”
After a 13-week hiatus because of COVID-19, legislatures were scheduled into session this past week on Monday (June 15) to decide whether or not to put a hate crimes bill to a vote that would make these types of crimes illegal in the state. Unfortunately, the Senate committee did not meet as initially planned. Although hate crimes legislation passed in the House of Representatives last year, it has stalled in the Senate and seemingly continues to do so.