The Georgia State House of Representatives passed a hate crime bill on Thursday night (March 7).

HB 426, which was passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee last week, passed with a vote of 96 to 64 and became the first hate crime bill specifically including protections for LGBTQ Georgians to be passed by either legislative body in Georgia.

This marks the first time sexual orientation and gender identity are protected from hate crimes under state law.

A hate crime law was previously passed by the General Assembly, but it was ruled unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2004 because it didn’t include enumerated categories of specifically protected groups.

“It is truly a historic moment for Georgia,” said the executive director of Georgia Equality – the state’s largest advocacy organization working to advance Georgia’s LGBTQ community – Jeff Graham. “A bill was first passed at the state level in California in 1984 and has been a priority of Georgia LGBTQ community part since the early 1990s has finally passed Georgia’s House of Representatives.”

“Georgia Equality is proud to have worked in coalition with ADL (Anti-Defamation League) on hate crime legislation and Representatives Calvin Smyre, Karla Drenner, and Chuck Efstration who have been tireless advocates of this important issue,” Graham continued.

Shelley Rose, the Deputy Regional Director of ADL, said that implementing hate crime legislation like this can help improve the response to hate crimes statewide.

“While we cannot outlaw anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or other forms of bigotry,” Rose said, “we can significantly improve hate crime response in Georgia by joining the 45 other state and the District of Columbia in putting hate crime legislation on the books.”

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