All Arkansans treasure freedom. We all want to live our lives as we see fit, true to ourselves and our values. Arkansas legislators are seeking to reinforce this shared conviction with a proposed bipartisan hate crime bill. The bill would enact tougher consequences on crimes that target a victim based on their race, national origin, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In other words, it would provide stronger protection for what individual Arkansans believe, what we look like, who we date and where we come from. 

Legislation that Protects Arkansans

Hate crimes have affected and stolen the lives of Arkansans for decades, even children in some cases. These new proposed laws are born from a desire to protect people like Brayla Stone, a black, transgender teenager who was killed earlier this summer in Sherwood. Her tragic death followed closely on the heels of George Floyd’s death and the national outcry against identity-based violence. Arkansans have many views on the best way to live life, but no one thinks the murder of someone’s child is acceptable. The drafting of this bill, and the support from Republican and Democrat leadership alike, shows that Arkansas is ready to set the record straight on how we feel life and liberty should be honored and protected. 

Arkansas is one of the only states in the US that lacks hate crime laws, keeping company with Wyoming and South Carolina. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called the legislation “much needed and long overdue.” State Senator Jim Hendren,who drafted the bill, said, “Failure to pass hate-crimes legislation and being one of the only three…without these basic protections that the majority of Arkansans support sends a horrible message about who Arkansas is.” 

Arkansas is one of only three states without a hate crimes law. The other two states are Wyoming and South Carolina.

Arkansans across the board denounce hate crime, and community members from business owners to Christian pastors are looking to state lawmakers to do what’s right. Our lawmakers are reflecting that determined spirit in this case. Senator Joyce Elliot, who has been working on hate crime legislation for almost 20 years, said in June of the proposed bill, “I won’t let this bipartisan moment pass.”