ATLANTA—Womble Bond Dickinson has joined many other Georgia businesses in support of the bipartisan Hate Crimes Bill now being debated in the state’s General Assembly. Joel Pieper, Managing Partner of the firm’s Atlanta office, signed the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s letter in support of the bill on behalf of the firm. 

Sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican, the bill (HB 426) passed the Georgia House of Representatives in 2019 and now is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Georgia is one of just five states without a hate crimes law on the books.

Womble Bond Dickinson joins a number of prominent Georgia businesses, including NCR, in signing the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s letter urging legislators to pass the Hate Crimes Bill. Womble Bond Dickinson Partner Nellie Shipley Sullivan serves on the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Board of Advisors.

The legislation under consideration would increase penalties for crimes targeting victims due to race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability. 

“Georgia is one of just five states without a hate crimes bill. Passing this bill will send a powerful message that our state is committed to fairness and justice for all, and that violence targeting specific groups of people will not be tolerated,” Pieper said. 

While the bill has been in the General Assembly for several months, it has received renewed attention due to the recent national protests following the high-profile killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery, an African-American man, was shot and killed while jogging in Brunswick, Ga. with the shooter allegedly using a racial slur during the incident. Three white men have been charged with murder in the case.

The Georgia Hate Crimes Bill is part of a larger—and overdue—effort to improve racial justice outcomes in the US. The recent and senseless killings of Ahmaud Aubery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks here in Atlanta show that hate crimes, institutional racism and targeted violence can be a literal matter of life and death. The Georgia Hate Crimes Bill will give prosecutors a valuable tool to protect the rights and safety of all Georgians.