Ga. Representative Calvin Smyre shares the journey to the state’s hate crime bill

Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 11:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Since the early 2000s, Representative Calvin Smyre has been one of the original Georgia lawmakers to push for hate crime laws in the state.

Smyre also holds the title as serving the longest on the Georgia General Assembly. This year marks his 56th year. According to Smyre, the first hate crime bill he and other lawmakers crafted wasn’t passed because the Supreme Court said it was too vague.

“In the 2000s session, we passed a hate crime bill, but it was to broad and too vague and the Supreme Court says people could commit certain crimes and their was a possibility that it could be considered a hate crime and it wasn’t a hate crime,” said Smyre.

This didn’t stop Smyre and other law makers that believed Georgia needed hate crime laws. In 2019, they drafted House Bill 426. This house bill mandates enhanced sentencing for people convicted of targeting victims based on their race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental disability or physical disability. But it wasn’t until Tuesday that the bill was passed through the house and the Senate.

“This is one of the finest moments that I have witnessed in my 46 years in the House,” said Smyre. “To me, this is a defining moment in the state. Not only is it emotional for me, but to a lot of people that were involved in this process. Something of this nature defines your state.”

According to Governor Brian Kemp’s office, he plans to sign the bill after it goes through legal review. Smyre said this hate crime bill is not a cure all, but it is a step in the right direction.

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