Arkansas’s governor, attorney general and numerous state lawmakers are calling for a bill enhancing the penalty for hate crimes to be passed in the next session of the state legislature.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson joined Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers at a news conference Wednesday to call for such a law to pass the next time the legislature convenes in January 2021.
In a statement, Hutchinson voiced his support for a draft hate crime bill, which enhances the penalty for crimes committed against people based on numerous factors including race, age, gender identity, religion, disability and sexual orientation.
“I want Arkansas to say plainly and clearly that we will not tolerate violence against anyone because of their race, their religion, or because of who they are,” Hutchinson said. “We don’t need new laws. We need to enhance the penalty for a crime when someone targets a victim because of a specific characteristic.”
Under the bill, the state must prove that the victim of such crimes was purposefully singled out by their assailant for one of those reasons. Someone convicted under the hate crime law could face as much as 20% added prison time, fines, or probation.
Lawmakers have tried numerous times to do away with Arkansas’s designation as one of only three states without a formal law that strengthens penalties for hate crimes.