Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service
January 31, 2024
ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Wednesday defining antisemitism and incorporating it into Georgia’s hate crimes law.
“There is no place for hate in this great state,” Kemp said during a ceremony at the state Capitol. “In Georgia, we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters, today and every day.”
House Bill 30 was introduced in the General Assembly last year and overwhelmingly passed the House. However, it failed to make it through the state Senate.
The bill’s backers in both legislative chambers renewed their efforts early in this year’s session, with the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli civilians as a backdrop.
Kemp said a troubling rise in antisemitic acts across the nation and in Georgia in recent years has included not just harassment and intimidation but violence.
The legislation codifies in state law the definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization founded by Sweden’s prime minister in 1998. It allows prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties when crimes have been committed because the victim is Jewish.
Kemp described the bill Wednesday as a follow-up to hate crimes legislation the General Assembly passed in 2020 following the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick.
When the legislation was debated on the House and Senate floor last week, some lawmakers argued it violates the First Amendment right to free speech because it would allow Georgians to be charged with a hate crime for simply criticizing the Israeli government’s war on Hamas that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
But the measure ended up passing both chambers by large margins, 44-6 in the Senate and 129-5 in the House.
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