I am on the last chapter of The Soul Of America by Jon Meacham. The book is a well-written historical narrative of the on-going struggle within our country over the issue of civil rights. I am at the point where the 1963 March on Washington has concluded. The reading of this chapter in light of the news from Georgia is an alignment of history and raw emotion that is gut-wrenching.
The Valdosta Daily Times published an editorial that hits one of the bottom lines with this story. There must be a hate crime law put on the books in Georgia. Today Arkansas, South Carolina, Wyoming and Georgia are the only backward states regarding this matter. I have been complaining about Wyoming’s lack of rational thinking over this matter for decades.
Matthew Shepard was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998. There is no more stark example of why such a law is needed, and yet one has not been passed.
I have long argued for measures that add on additional years in sentencing for those who commit crimes that are directed at groups or classes of people. The reason is clear, as society needs an additional deterrent for hate crimes from taking place. These crimes are directed at society as a whole, and as such need to be met with harsher penalties.
Some will argue that all crime is hateful, so why would additional sentencing guidelines be needed? If you consider, as an example, burning a cross in a yard we know that it is not so much aimed at the owner of the property where it burned, but instead is meant to send a direct message to the larger community telling them to ‘be aware’. The same type of message is meant for the gay community when gay beatings and murders take place.
There is NO justification to stand in the way of a hate crimes bill except to give cover to the darkest elements of society who use violence as a tool to promote hate and bigotry.
The killers who hunted a black man, following their arrest. The death penalty was made for monsters like Gregory and Travis McMichael.
The Times has it right about why such a law is needed in Georgia.
No one should fear being gunned down in the streets.
The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick is beyond reprehensible.
The 25-year-old black man was jogging when gunned down in the street.
We are a nation of laws.
We cannot tolerate vigilantes.
We must demand that state lawmakers pass hate crime legislation.
Georgia is one of just four states in the nation without hate crime laws on the books.
That’s beyond disturbing.
Yes, assault and murder are always criminal.
But targeting people because they have a different skin color, speak another language, have a different lifestyle or live with a disability is something society should never tolerate.
At one time, Georgia did have a hate crimes law but the courts ruled it unconstitutional because of its vague language.
It is beyond time to remedy that.
In the U.S., 46 states have laws on the books protecting minority and vulnerable populations.
Any state that does not see the need and act accordingly is simply tone deaf.
Arkansas, South Carolina, Wyoming and Georgia have been more than tone deaf on this issue; the states have been completely negligent.
Every other state in the nation gets it.
Why can’t Georgia?
Does anyone actually think there is less hate and fewer hate crimes in Georgia?
This issue is not about immigration, religious preferences or even lifestyle choices. Just because people are not the same as you, speak differently, have another skin color, act differently or choose to live in a way that you do not agree with, that does not mean they should be subjected to violence.
The arguments against hate crime laws ring hollow.
Opponents argue that such laws create a special class, value the lives of some people over the lives of others and serve to create more racism, homophobia and hatred.
There is absolutely no evidence to support those claims.
This should be bipartisan. Anyone who treasures life should support such a law.
We encourage the General Assembly to get this done.
The General Assembly should send a strong message that Georgia stands against hate, few things could be more pro-life.