Arkansas governor signs stripped-down hate crimes measure

Arkansas

FILE – In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson said Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, he will not back former President Donald Trump if he runs for the White House in 2024, saying “it’s time” to move on to different voices in the Republican Party. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into law a stripped-down alternative to hate crimes legislation that longtime supporters of such laws say doesn’t provide true protections.

The Republican governor on Tuesday signed the bill, which its sponsors have called a “class protection” bill, a day after it won final approval in the Legislature.

The new law requires offenders to serve at least 80% of their sentence if they committed a serious violent felony against someone because of their “mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics.” Unlike an earlier hate crimes bill Hutchinson had advocated, the bill doesn’t refer to specific categories such as race, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Arkansas had been among three states without a hate crimes law, along with Wyoming and South Carolina. Hutchinson had made enacting one a priority this year.

But the Anti-Defamation League, which urged Arkansas to hate crimes law, said it didn’t consider the measure a true hate crimes law. ADL said it planned to work with other communities in Arkansas to enact hate crimes ordinances similar to one approved by Little Rock last year.

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