Update, 6/23: Today, the Georgia legislature passed HB 426. It now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Georgia is one of four states without a hate crimes bill, and Oglethorpe University joins nearly 200 other organizations advocating for that to change.
“We stand committed to building a better basis for peace and prosperity across our state and our country, founded on justice for all. We are all employers in Georgia who value diversity, fairness and inclusion.” – Letter from the Coalition to Members of the Georgia Assembly
As the Georgia General Assembly returns to conclude its legislative session, the Georgia Senate will have the opportunity to pass House Bill 426, known as the Georgia Hate Crimes Act. The bill was passed by the Georgia House last year but awaits consideration from the senate.
State Representative Chuck Efstration of Dacula is the sponsor of the Georgia Hate Crimes Act, introducing the legislation during the 2019 legislative session. The bill seeks stronger penalties for perpetrators committing crimes against victims based on race, color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender or mental or physical disability.
Recently, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan introduced a separate Senate bill as the 2020 session reconvened also aimed at addressing hate crimes in Georgia.
The need for hate crime legislation in Georgia has resurfaced in recent weeks after testimony in Ahmaud Arbery’s murder case revealed that the alleged killer directed a racial slur toward Arbery. It also follows protests across the country in response to police brutality and racial injustice surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, most recently, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.
“Georgia is one of the few states in the country that has not added a hate crime provision to its criminal statutes, and we must do all we can to make it clear that the citizens of this state will no longer tolerate hate and discrimination,” said Oglethorpe University President Lawrence Schall, who signed the petition on behalf of Oglethorpe. As he gets ready to depart Oglethorpe at the end of this month, President Schall penned an op-ed to further share his thoughts on achieving true racial equality in the Atlanta area and beyond. He also weighed in on race relations in Atlanta together with other area leaders.
Incoming President Nicholas Ladany added, “A core value of Oglethorpe University is our strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and support of the Georgia Hate Crime Bill is one way that universities demonstrate that we are walking the walk.”
Learn more about the coalition and support behind the passage of a hate crimes law in Georgia at www.passhatecrimesga.com.