Though Blackwell, who had been convicted of other crimes in the past, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the crime, Willis said many hate-motivated crimes are not punished as harshly as she believes they should be.
“The motivation of why someone does something is important,” said Willis, who is running for an open seat on the Fulton County Superior Court. “It’s awful to commit a crime, yes. But you can’t help who you are. Why should they be targeted because of it? I think that’s disgusting.”
Hanson said she is working on final details of the bill, but she indicated it would mirror the federal law in providing protections for race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation. She didn’t say exactly what the new penalties would be, other than that they would be mandatory.
Opponents of hate crime laws say the measures limit their freedom of speech, something Hanson said she doesn’t believe is true.
“The freedom of individuals to do and say what they wish should be protected and secured by the government so long as it does not harm the liberty of others,” she said. “Those who hate cannot terrorize and intimidate to make their point.”
Matthew Wilson, a gay Democrat who has announced his intent to run against Hanson this fall, said while he welcomes Hanson’s proposal, he questions the timing.
“I hope that this bill becomes law,” he said. “But I think that if you want to carry the flag for human rights, you have to show up in non-election years.”