Georgia lawmakers approve new hate crime law in bipartisan vote

ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate, and then the House, approved a new hate crime law Tuesday but only after some last-minute changes threatened to derail the process.

The Georgia House originally passed the bill last year.

It sat in a Senate committee since then, but after all that’s happened in Georgia and across the country, lawmakers took it up again.

[Georgia House approves bill creating penalties for hate crimes]

A last-minute amendment to include first responders to the list of protected groups of people was pulled late Monday night, to clear the way for Tuesday’s vote.

The new law would include additional penalties and sentences for any crime motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

At a morning news conference, the bishop of Georgia’s AME church said he was hopeful, not only that the bill would pass, but that it passed with bi-partisan support.

[Faith leaders demand Georgia lawmakers pass hate crime bill]

“And so we’re going to bring unity to this state, then the general assembly needs to set an example by voting in a bipartisan way to say that we will not tolerate hate and evil in the state of Georgia,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson.

Republican House Speaker David Ralston has supported this bill since last year. It now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

The governor said he “commends the General Assembly’s bipartisan work and will sign House Bill 426 pending legal review.”

Georgia is one of only four states without hate crime legislation. The Georgia Supreme Court struck down a previous version in 2004 for being too broad.