Protections against antisemitism pass Georgia House

House votes 136-22 to define antisemitism under Georgia hate crimes law

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Crimes against Jewish people could come with stiffer penalties under a bill that cleared the House on Monday.

The Georgia House voted 136-22 to pass the measure, which defines antisemitism so that it would be included under Georgia’s hate crimes law.

State Rep. Esther Panitch, the only Jewish legislator in the Georgia General Assembly, said the bill is needed after antisemitic flyers were found last month in the driveways of predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

“Protections for Jewish people do not come at the expense of anyone else except antisemites,” said Panitch, a Democrat from Sandy Springs. “I don’t have to reach across the ocean or back into history. Many of you are aware of the hateful Jewish flyers that were distributed in Atlanta-area neighborhoods just a few weeks ago.”

While the legislation wouldn’t make antisemitic flyers illegal, actions that target Jewish people could be used in court as evidence of a motive when prosecuting crimes.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Several Democrats who opposed the bill said religious protections are already covered by the state’s hate crimes law.

“It begs the question as to why the Georgia code doesn’t define anti-Black racism or anti-Latino racism or anti-Asian racism,” said state Rep. Jasmine Clark, a Democrat from Lilburn. “A bill such as this may unintentionally have the effect of having each marginalized group wondering where is their definition in the code.”

But Panitch said that while the state’s hate crimes law includes racial and religious discrimination, it doesn’t necessarily cover the usage of symbols such as swastikas against Jews.

Georgia’s hate crimes law, which was enacted in 2020, allows harsher criminal penalties against those who target their victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex, national origin, religion, or physical or mental disability. House Bill 30 would add antisemitism as evidence of discriminatory intent under the hate crimes law.

The bill will next be considered by the Georgia Senate.