LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (WMC) - Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has unveiled a hate crime bill -- the first bill of its kind in the state.
Arkansas is just one of three states without a hate crime law. Governor Hutchinson says the bill announced Wednesday is long overdue.
To view the draft bill, click here.
“We are at a point in our history that we must hold to a higher degree of accountability those who target individuals because of where they were born, how they worship, or how they choose to live,” said Hutchinson.
With support from both parties and the attorney general, Hutchinson proposed legislation for a hate crime bill.
The bill would "enhance penalties for offenses committed due to a victim's race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, homelessness, gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, disability, or service in United States Armed Forces."
The bill would increase jail time or fines up to 20%.
Similar legislation has failed in the past. This time around, the bill has support from business and faith leaders.
Lawmakers and the attorney general have also pledged their support.
“We must take action, action is long overdue. These crimes cannot be tolerated and we must send a clear message enhanced crimes of evil will result in enhanced level of justice,” said Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas Attorney General.
Shabaka Afri’ka, president of the Crittenden County NAACP also supports the bill and hopes it brings change to the state.
“Yes I am glad to see, but my concern is how will it be enforced given the history of race and racialized politics in places like Arkansas,” said Afri’ka.
Hutchinson and lawmakers acknowledged this is just the beginning, saying the bill still has to be approved. They admit it will be difficult, but they promise to fight to get this bill approved.