Arkansas Lawmakers File Hate Crime Bill

Arkansas is one of three states without a hate crime law. A group of lawmakers is working to change that during next year’s legislative session.

Senator Jim Hendren, a Republican from Gravette, filed a hate crime bill yesterday, the first day of filing. The legislation proposes enhanced 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.”

Arkansas is one of only three states without a hate crime law.

In a post on social media, Sen. Hendren says filing the bill is “the right thing to do.”


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Left to right: Senator Jim Hendren and Representative Fred Love

Family Council President Jerry Cox issued a statement in opposition to Senate Bill 3 saying while “we all agree something needs to be done to address racism in our state,” passing a hate crime law isn’t the answer.

“No law has ever stopped hate, and no law ever will,” Cox says. “It’s a matter of heart. The experience of other states proves that hate crimes laws do not work.”

Hate crimes in the United States have reached their highest level since 2008. That’s according to the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report that was released Monday.

The most recent survey, which looks at data from 2019, reports there were 7,103 incidents involving 8,552 victims. Nearly 58 percent of victims were targeted because of race and ethnicity, and about a quarter of incidents occurred in or near residences.

In addition to establishing enhanced sentences for hate crimes, S.B. 3 also calls for an annual report. The legislation proposes the Attorney General will establish and maintain a database for hate crimes in Arkansas, and issue a summary by December each year.

Sen. Hendren is lead sponsor of the bill and Representative Fred Love, a Democrat from Mabelvale, is the primary sponsor in the Arkansas House.

The 93rd General Assembly will convene for its Regular Session Jan. 11, 2021.