06/04/2020 - Brunswick, Georgia - Ahmaud Arbery supporters participate in an impromptu peaceful march in Brunswick, Thursday, June 4, 2020. A judge found probable cause against 3 suspects in the Ahmaud Abrery case. The case will now be bound over to the Georgia Superior Court. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

An endorsement of a hate crimes bill by Georgia’s most prominent political veterans

Below is a letter the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will carry on Sunday, urging immediate and unaltered passage of House Bill 426, a measure that would allow enhanced penalties for crimes in which the victim was targeted on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, physical disability, and mental disability.

The Legislature reconvenes on Monday, after a pandemic recess, with only 11 days remaining. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has declared passage of HB 426 a moral necessity following the slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through a coastal Georgia neighborhood. Three white men were charged in connection with the death, 101 days after it occurred on Feb. 23.

Thirteen names are attached to the letter, sent to us by former Gov. Roy Barnes, and appear in diplomatic, alphabetical order.

You’ll recognize most of them, but we would point you to three Republicans in particular, who have not lightly commented on public issues since leaving office: Former Gov. Nathan Deal,  former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Here’s the letter:

To the people of the State of Georgia:

At the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson said that former president Bush was a man without hate. Then he said something profound: “Hatred corrodes the container it is carried in”. Truer words have never been spoken. 

Hate not only corrodes, but destroys everything it touches. It is the poison which spreads like wildfire and lays waste to everything in its wake. It divides and dissolves our nation into polar opposites. Hate harms all people of all colors, political persuasions and ages. This is not a partisan issue, it is a human one. The undersigned are members of both parties, united in a belief we can do better. 

The General Assembly has a Hate Crimes Act pending before it for consideration. HB 426 has passed the House of Representatives and is pending in the Georgia Senate. We urge the passage of the bill so Georgia will leave the minority of five states which does not have a hate crimes law, and joins the great majority of states which have taken a stand against hate. We urge the Georgia Senate to pass the bill without amendment and send it to Governor Kemp for approval. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. It is time we help bend that arc further toward its destination.

-- Thurbert Baker, former attorney general for Georgia

-- Roy E. Barnes, former governor of Georgia

-- Casey Cagle, former lieutenant governor of Georgia

-- Max Cleland, former member of the U.S. Senate

-- George W. Darden III, former member of Congress

-- Nathan Deal, former governor of Georgia

-- Shirley Franklin, former mayor of Atlanta

-- Johnny Isakson, former member of the U.S. Senate

-- Sam Nunn, former member of the U.S. Senate

-- Sam Olens, former attorney general for Georgia

-- Dan Ponder, former member of the Georgia House of Representatives

-- Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

-- Wendell Willard, former member of the Georgia House of Representatives

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.
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