While the state of Georgia may be disappointed in the outcome of the NCAA football championship game, many Georgians are thrilled about the state’s lack of “hate crime” legislation. After all, if you commit a crime, does it really matter that much if you hated your victim for some bigoted reason?
However, a new bill introduced in the Georgia General Assembly seeks to change that. Oddly enough, it was proposed by a Republican.
State Representative Meagan Hanson, a Republican attorney from Brookhaven, announced last week that she will push a bill that will seek to increase penalties against people who are part of certain groups.
Hanson claims that the bill (HB 660) will simply bring Georgia in line with federal guidelines. However, just because something is federal law doesn’t make it a good idea.
“Attacks that are motivated by hate for a group are different from typical crimes aimed at individual targets, and they are designed to create fear among those people in that group and oppress the entire community,” Hanson argued, and she may have a point.
If the crimes warrant punishment, then punishment should be given. Don’t get me wrong here. However, hate crime laws seek to penalize people for what they are thinking or feeling when they commit a crime, and that’s a dangerous thing. When you start prosecuting people for what is in their head, where does it stop?
Further, the bill requires a jury to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual was targeted because of his or her status as a marginalized person, but it doesn’t specify anything beyond it. In other words, since women are a protected group under this bill, every purse snatcher could be convicted of a hate crime. Aren’t they targeting women because they’re women?
While Hanson’s bill does have graduated penalties for hate crimes based on the initial crime committed, it fails to account for the fact that criminal convictions are open records. That means anyone convicted of a so-called hate crime, even if they’re not racist or sexist or homophobic, will be labeled a bigot before the entire world. What do you think that will do for a guy trying to turn his life around after some time in jail, but can’t get a job because everyone falsely thinks he’s a Klan member?
Prosecute the crime. “Hate crimes” are a slippery slope.