The unexpected passage Tuesday of HB 426, Georgia’s Hate Crimes Bill was a big win for the state and for Episcopalians who have fought for the measure, The Right Rev. Rob Wright said in a statement issued after legislators approved the legislation.
“I am thankful to those who supported this much needed affirmation that hate has no place in Georgia. Our state’s citizens deserve a hate crimes bill that affirms equal treatment under the law.
“As a follower of Jesus, I condemn hate driven actions of all stripe. Whether they be violence against our brothers and sisters of color or our LGBTQ brothers and sisters or our Jewish and Muslim siblings who adhere to a faith in the same God I honor and worship.
“Now is the time for all people of good will to continue the heart and mind work that is needed for all citizens to be seen as worthwhile and beloved members of society.”
Earlier, Wright and other board members of the Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center had joined individuals, business leaders and civil rights groups in supporting the measure. GIPPC issued a statement decrying hate crimes and calling for Georgia to leave the list of four states not outlawing hate crimes.
The hate crime bill, which enhances the penalties for crimes motivated by the race, sexual orientation, or religion of the victims, passed Tuesday by wide margins in both houses of the Georgia legislature. It was an outcome that seemed unlikely just a few days earlier.
The bill had languished in a Senate committee without a hearing for more than a year. Then, after the outcry over the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick and other Black men and women including Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta a hearing was set for last Friday.
The bill was approved by the committee in a party line vote with a “poison pill” amendment adding police officers and other first responders to the list of those protected. It took a late-night bipartisan agreement on Monday that moved the law enforcement provision to another bill to clear the way for the vote putting Georgia on the list of 47 states that have a hate crimes law.
Bishop Wright has been a leader in working for racial and ethnic healing since being consecrated Bishop of Atlanta in 2012.
Along with Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Wright in 2017, established the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. The Center is now a worldwide resource for those seeking ways to heal longstanding rifts between races.
You can learn more about the work of the Jones Center and other social justice work of the Diocese of Atlanta at https://www.episcopalatlanta.org/poverty-social-justice/