The Georgia legislature approved hate-crimes legislation on Tuesday, a historic move that is expected to remove the state from a small list of those without a law explicitly banning hate crimes. House Bill 426, which will now head to the desk of Governor Brian Kemp, would allow enhanced criminal penalties against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. “Governor Kemp commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review,” Kemp's office said in a statement after the Georgia Senate approved the measure 47-6, followed by the House agreeing 127-38.
Advocates and lawmakers renewed their push to pass the bill—that would make anybody convicted of a hate crime face an added 12 months for a misdemeanor or at least two years for a felony charge—after the Feb. 23 slaying of Ahmaud Arbery. “This is a defining moment for Georgia,” House speaker David Ralston told the Atlanta Journal Constitution after the vote.