Johns Creek passes LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law

The Johns Creek City Council adopted an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes ordinance on Monday that went into effect immediately.

“Who wouldn’t be happy when you have the opportunity to send a strong message that hate’s not going to be accepted in Johns Creek?” Mayor Mike Bodker (photo) told Project Q Atlanta. “It’s been received very excitedly by the citizens.”

The council passed the measure 5 to 1, with Councilmember Stephanie Endres being the lone no vote. She did not respond to Project Q’s questions about her vote.

The ordinance enhances penalties for crimes committed against victims targeted over their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, race, color, religion, national origin, or physical or mental disability. 

It applies to three city code violations: vandalism, disorderly conduct and creating a disturbance at school. It also calls for an increased sentence “up to and including the maximums” allowed under Johns Creek law. Currently, violations of city ordinances are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of up to six months.

“[The hate crimes ordinance] makes it very clear that you need to push it towards the maximum,” Bodker said. “It’s only by virtue of something like a hate crimes ordinance that something like that would ever happen, and that’s the whole point.”  

The court may also add community service as a punishment, according to the ordinance. All fines collected relating to a hate crime in Johns Creek will be used to support educational programs on bigotry.

More serious crimes would continue to be prosecuted under state law, which does not have a hate crimes measure. One such bill passed in the Georgia House in 2019 and is now under consideration in the Senate.

The Johns Creek policy also requires the police department to track and report hate crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Georgia law enforcement agencies fall far behind the national average in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, according to the 2018 Hate Crime Statistics report. Project Q recently uncovered numerous issues with how local law enforcement agencies report anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

Sandy Springs passed an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes ordinance in July.