The slaying reignited a long-simmering debate in Georgia over legislation that imposes stiffer prison sentences for those who commit crimes based on race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
Georgia is one of four states in the nation without such a measure after a previous law was declared unconstitutionally vague in 2004, and leading Democrats and Republicans pressed for a new version when legislators resume the session in June after a pandemic-related hiatus.
The measure passed the Georgia House last year by a 96-64 vote with the support several influential suburban Republicans. But it stalled in the state Senate, held up by conservative critics who say they're skeptical about the need for additional penalties for crimes that already carry hefty sentences.
"If this doesn't show us that we ought to have a hate-crimes law, I don't know what will," said state Sen. Harold Jones, an Augusta Democrat and member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. "We need to step up in the Senate and make sure this gets passed."
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