Arkansas governor signs scaled-back hate crimes bill
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a hate crimes bill into law this week that advocates have criticized as “a complete overhaul” of another bill that included more specific language cracking down on crimes targeting victims due to their race, religion and sexual orientation.
According to The Associated Press, Hutchinson green-lighted the measure on Tuesday after it passed the state’s Republican-led legislature.
Under the measure, offenders that commit violent felonies against individuals due to their “mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics” would have to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence behind bars.
However, according to the news agency, another hate crimes bill previously pushed by Hutchinson would have also covered crimes committed targeting individuals for their race, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Passage of the bill, which supporters have reportedly billed as a “class protection” measure, comes after the governor previously said he planned pass a hate crimes bill this year.
According to the AP, prior to the bill’s passage, Arkansas was one of only three states that hadn’t enacted any kind of hate crimes legislation.
However, the bill has drawn pushback from advocates who say it doesn’t go far enough.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has condemned the measure as “misleading legislation masquerading as a hate crime bill.”
Aaron Ahlquist, south central regional director for the group, denounced the bill in a statement as “sham legislation” and said “virtually any violent crime based on a person’s association or belief would be covered, including crimes targeting white supremacists or neo-Nazis.”
“ADL vehemently opposes it and urges a complete overhaul of the bill to specifically address crimes targeting victims because of their race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity,” Ahlquist said.
“Any legitimate hate crime legislation must include and be limited to these explicit categorical protections. These categories – addressing characteristics that people cannot or should not have to change – are needed to protect communities who are facing a very real and concerning rise in hate-motivate violence,” Ahlquist added.