Debate today in Arkansas capitol over differing versions of hate crimes legislation

Debate today in Arkansas capitol over differing versions of hate crimes legislation.

Video Transcript

BRETT RAINS: Arkansas is only one of three states that right now does not have hate crime laws. Now, today, some people told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that they're needed, while others said they do not protect everyone equally, and it could lead to thought police.

JERRY COX: I live in a country where people get punished for what they do and not what they think or believe. And I think this comes dangerously close to crossing that important line.

BRETT RAINS: Jerry Cox is the director of Family Council, a conservative nonprofit organization based in Little Rock. Today, he spoke out against both bills, SB 3 and SB 622. But the director of the Mosaic Church in Conway disagrees.

JERRY COX: We all need to be protected, and I believe we all are. Show me where the laws are insufficient to punish evildoers. Show me where we don't have enough laws to punish evil.

MARK DEYMAZ: Any failure to pass robust specific and meaningful hate crime legislation, as represented by SB 3, will not be due to the lack of support from Christ-centered believers, pastors, or churches throughout the state of Arkansas, but the lack of support and understanding from state legislators such as yourselves.

BRETT RAINS: Senate Bill 3 enhances penalties and jail time by up to 20% if a felony or misdemeanor is committed due to a victim's race, color, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, service in the military, and more. Today, it failed to make it out of committee, but SB 622 was passed by state senators.

The bill only applies to the most severe felonies. It requires a person to serve at least 80% of their sentence if the victim was purposely selected because they were a member or associated with a group or class who share mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious characteristics. The bill does not mention race, sexual orientation, or hate.

BOB BALLINGER: If we're going to have a bill that targets hate, shouldn't it cover everyone?

JOYCE ELLIOT: If you don't name what you're talking about, you just don't know what you are-- how you're gonna guide yourself. And the person who wants to be seen and not erased has no idea that you really see that person for his or her distinction.

ALAN CLARK: If somebody murders somebody, I'm not on their side. I have no problem with them serving longer time. But we won't put classes in law.

JOYCE ELLIOT: Listen to me. My experience is not your experience. It is not equal. Please don't erase me.

BRETT RAINS: And since SB 3 and the House equivalent-- since both of them did not make it out of committee, both now essentially dead. Next is Senate Bill 622. It's now headed to the House. Live in Fort Smith, Brett Rains, "40/29 News."