The state House on Thursday voted to move Georgia closer to joining 45 other states that have hate-crimes laws on the books.
House members voted 96-64 to send the measure to the Senate.
State Rep. Chuck Efstration, a Dacula Republican, sponsored the bill that would give sentencing guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.
“Hate can be used as a tool for evil in order to undermine the law and order that we take for granted many times in our society,” Efstration said.
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If House Bill 426 becomes law, a person convicted of a crime and proved to have been motivated by bias would face punishment ranging from three months to a year and a fine of up to $5,000 for a misdemeanor offense to at least two years in prison for a felony offense.
Opposing the legislation, state Rep. Sheri Gilligan said passing the bill would insert "injustice into our laws."
“We are lucky in Georgia that all crime victims are equal before the eyes of the law regardless of their skin color or the skin color of their assailant,” the Cumming Republican said. “There is really only one way to keep our laws colorblind and dedicated to equality for everybody — please oppose this bill.”
Georgia is one of five states that does not have a hate-crimes law on the books. A 2000 hate-crimes law was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2004 for being "unconstitutionally vague."
The bill now heads to the Senate.
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