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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Georgia is one of five states that do not protect people against hate crimes. That’s according to the NAACP.
However, a bill passed by lawmakers brings the state closer to punishing those who commit hate crimes.
There are discrimination laws in employment handbooks which say employers can’t discriminate based on your race, gender, or religion.
Hate crimes headline the news across America. The targets are minorities and the Lesbian Bi Gay Trans Queer (LBGTQ) community.
“Stop teaching people to hate one another because they’re different. It’s not something you’re born with. It’s what you’re taught,” Macon’s NAACP Director Gwennette Westbrook said.
Akasha Vidalle identifies as a non-gender-binary person. A non-gender-binary person doesn’t identify as male, female, or transgender.
Just like any young adult, Vidalle loves going out and having a good time. But Vidalle says they always worry about safety from those who disagree with their life choices.
“Then the guy was like ‘Oh, y’all some dudes.’ It really scared the both of us, so he pulled out a knife. From that moment I was just like if the club security wasn’t out there, we could have been hurt,” Vidalle said.
During Thursday’s legislative session in Atlanta, the House passed Bill 426.
If the Senate passes the bill, it would be Georgia’s first hate crime legislation.
“It’s a protection that we need,” Vidalle said.
The bill would punish people who commit hate crimes and let people like Vidalle feel more safe.
“Hate crime is a form of evil and so we have to make sure that this bill is passed to protect those people who are being targeted,” Westbrooks said.
If the bill becomes law, then those who commit hate crimes are convicted, depending on the offense. It may be a misdemeanor with a minimum three months sentence and a fine or a felony of a minimum two years sentence.