On Friday, June 26, 2020, Georgia House Bill 426, known as the Hate Crimes Bill, was the center of a historic bill-signing ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. This momentous occasion was the result of work by a bipartisan effort in the Georgia Legislation that was long overdue and has now dubbed Georgia as “The State That is Too Great to Hate.” During the ceremony, Governor Brian Kemp signed the legislation surrounded by Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker of the House David Ralston, Judiciary Non-Civil Chairman Chuck Efstration, Dean of the House Calvin Smyre and members This law makes it of the Georgia General As sembly. a crime to target persons, actual or perceived, due to their race, color, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, and the law will become effective July 1, 2020, since it passed and received the Governor’s approval within the 40 days after the end of the legislative session. Georgia was among four (4) states, up until Friday, that did not have a Hate Crimes law. Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming still remain without such a law.
The following statements regarding the Hate Crimes Bill (HB 426) were issued by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House at the ceremony on Friday: “Today we took an important, necessary step forward for Georgia. We stood together as fellow Georgians to affirm one simple but powerful motto: Georgia is a State Too Great to Hate,” said Governor Kemp. “The signing of HB 426 is a sign of progress and a milestone worth applauding. This legislation will enhance public safety and ensure that justice is served for all Georgians – regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. Today we reaffirmed our desire to put progress ahead of politics. While this legislation does not right every wrong, it is an important step, and we will continue to do our part as state leaders to ensure that Georgia is a place where all people can live, learn, and prosper. Working together, [we] will continue to fight for fairness and do the right thing – even when no one is watching.”
“At a time when our nation feels so divided, this day is one of unity,” said Lt. Governor Duncan. “I am incredibly proud of the General Assembly’s collaborative effort, which produced a strong hate crimes bill that protects people in targeted groups and sends a strong statement about our values. I know we will build upon today’s accomplishment and continue to work toward meaningful change for all Georgians.”
“On this historic day, we have made it clear that Georgia rejects hate,” said Speaker David Ralston. “House Bill 426, a bipartisan piece of legislation, demonstrates that Georgia is a welcoming state to each and every person regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. I want to applaud the hard work of Chairman Chuck Efstration and Dean of the House, Calvin Smyre, on this bill and thank them for their work.”
The Primary Author of the bill was Representative Chuck Efstration (R- HD 104); with Co-Authors Representatives Calvin Smyre (D-HD 135); our own Ron Stephens (R- HD 164) and head of the Chatham County Delegation; Karen Bennett (D – HD 94); Deborah Silcox (R – HD 52); and Karla Drenner (D – HD 85). In his remarks, Representative Smyre acknowledged June 26th as a defining moment and great day in Georgia’s history where the death of Ahmaud Arbery would not be in vain.
Ironically, it was also the day of the funeral for Rayshard Brooks.