Georgia's Kemp signs hate crimes law after outcry over death

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's governor Brian Kemp signed a law on Friday that provides additional penalties for crimes motivated by a victim's race, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors. This will remove Georgia from the U.S. list without a hate crime law.
State legislators hurried to pass laws that had stalled after Ahmaud Arbery's murder and recent nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Arbery was a 25-year-old black man who was persecuted and killed dead in February near Brunswick, Georgia. Three white men, including a father and a son, were charged with murder after the video of the murder was released.
Kemp said on Friday before the bill was signed: "We have experienced a horrific act of hatred of violence. We have seen injustice with our own eyes. The Georgians protested to take action and the state legislators, many of whom are gathered here today came on this occasion. ”
The Republican governor said the legislation would not "fix every problem or correct any wrong. But ... is a powerful step forward."
The law, which comes into force on July 1, provides for additional penalties for certain crimes if they are motivated by the victim's race, skin color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender or disability. It also mandates the collection and reporting of data on hate crimes that are investigated by law enforcement agencies.
The Georgia Supreme Court overturned a previous hate crime law in 2004 and said it was too broad.
Republican MP Chuck Efstration, who sponsored the bill, said on Friday that the decision left Georgia "a loophole in our law." The inability to adequately name particularly heinous crimes is a loss for all Georgians, "said Efstration.
Before Kemp's signing of House Bill 426, Georgia was one of only four states without a hate crime law.
Legislators have been trying to pass a hate crime law for years, but efforts have waned and some conservatives are cool about this idea. The State House passed a version of Efstration's bill over a year ago, but it has stalled on a Senate committee. Efforts did not really take off until the last few months after Arbery's death and growing unrest across the country that brought waves of protesters to the State Capitol.
Bipartisan support for the bill was questioned when the Republicans added the police as a protected class to a Senate committee late last week. However, this language has been removed and incorporated into another bill as part of an agreement between the parties.
Many business and political leaders as well as civil rights organizations have vigorously campaigned for a hate crime law to be passed in Georgia.
"The time to act is now," a group of organizations, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, issued a statement last week before the law was passed.

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