LITTLE ROCK, Ark — A group of bipartisan legislators have proposed a hate crime law in Arkansas, which currently is one of a few states without such a law.
State Senator Jim Hendren (R) explained that although the bill doesn't create a new law, it instead enhances penalties for crimes "motivated by hatred of the victim's attributes."
The penalties would be increase by no more than 20% after law enforcement authorities have proved the suspect chose the victim "because of the victim’s race, national origin, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."
“A bipartisan approach is needed for this bill to pass,” Hendren said. “I know we can protect people who are potential victims of hate crimes, while at the same time instilling common sense procedures that will prevent abuse.”
The proposed bill would also make it a Class C felony to falsely accuse someone of a hate crime.
State Senator Joyce Elliot (D), who first pushed for a hate crime law during her first term in 2001, said she is "proud that we stand in unanimous support of this proposal."
"To my colleagues in the legislature, think of your kids, your grandkids. They're going to ask you what you did in this historic moment," Elliot said.
House Democratic Minority Leader Fred Love (D) said that "it's been a long time coming" for a hate crime law in Arkansas.
"But I think the situation unfolding this summer, and the death of George Floyd, have really shown us that we as a society are ready to move forward to a better future. This is the right thing to do, and it's the right time to do it. This has the full support of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus," Love said. "A Hate Crimes bill will by no means solve all of our problems, but it can deter people from acting on hatred.”
“No Arkansan should live in fear of being targeted for a crime because of who they are, what they look like, what they believe, or who they love. It is time for Arkansas law to send the clear and unmistakable message that hate has no home in our state,” said Representative Nicole Clowney (D), who helped write the draft.
You can view the bill by clicking here.