Arkansas Legislature Sends Sham ‘Hate Crimes’ Bill to Governor’s Desk

by Wyatt Ronan

ARKANSAS — Today, the Arkansas legislature passed Senate Bill 622, a vague and unenforceable sham ‘hate crimes’ bill that does nothing to protect Arkansas’s most targeted communities from bias-motivated crimes. This comes after Governor Asa Hutchinson signed four anti-LGBTQ bills into law this session. SB 622 does not enumerate any specific protected characteristics, is unconstitutionally vague, and contains anti-LGBTQ provisions. The bill is harmful and fails to address the scourge of hate crimes in Arkansas. HRC urges Governor Hutchinson to veto this harmful, deceptive bill.

Arkansas legislators are trying to paper over the most intensely anti-LGBTQ and specifically anti-transgender legislative session on record by passing a deceitful bill that does nothing to protect LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities from hate crimes. In an act of deep and painful irony, some legislators claim this bill protects LGBTQ people, the same people these legislators targeted by passing bills to harm them. The truth is, this bill cannot even be called hate crimes prevention legislation. It fails to protect historically targeted communities based on their immutable characteristics and includes provisions meant to attack the dignity of LGBTQ people. The only legislation that could make up for the unprecedented slate of harmful bills passed this session would be full repeals of these bills and the passage of genuine, fully-inclusive hate crime protections. Instead, Arkansas is trying to create plausible deniability for legislating against LGBTQ people and targeting transgender kids, who are among the most vulnerable people in the state. They need support, not relentless and outsized legislative attacks when there are real problems to address in Arkansas.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

Arkansas's so-called 'hate crimes' bill is an insult to the very idea of hate crimes legislation. Rather than protecting against hate crimes, this bill will only encourage them by enforcing no real consequences for hate, violence, and acts of discrimination. Arkansas legislators are creating a dangerous and unwelcome environment for LGBTQ people, and targeting transgender kids specifically. Families should never have to fear for the safety of their LGBTQ loved ones, but passing this bill would be an endorsement of that fear and a warning sign for so many families who would have to weigh calling Arkansas home against keeping their family safe. This type of legislation is reprehensible, as it serves more as an excuse than a solution to the pervasive problem of anti-LGBTQ hate.

Judy Shepard, President and Board Chair of the Matthew Shepard Foundation

SB 622 and the process that moved it forward is an embarrassment that will damage the State’s reputation. It is not a hate crime bill. Rather, the legislation is nothing more than a box checking exercise to avoid Arkansas from being labeled the last state without a hate crime law

Aaron Ahlquist, ADL South Central Regional Director

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