Sandy Springs passes LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law

The Sandy Springs City Council did what the state couldn't do and unanimously adopted its own LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes ordinance on Tuesday.

“Hate or bias-motivated crimes are more than acts of violence and destruction, they are attacks on the very values which are pillars of the City of Sandy Springs,” the ordinance said. “[The] Mayor and the City Council reject hate in all its forms and the damage to our city that comes as a result of expressions of hate.”

Councilmember Andy Bauman (photo) presented the ordinance at a council work session in June. 

The ordinance would create enhanced penalties for crimes against victims targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, race, color, religion, national origin or physical or mental disability. It would also require the Sandy Springs Police Department to track and report hate crimes to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

At Tuesday's meeting, Councilmember John Paulson asked whether the ordinance would be superseded if the state passes a hate crimes law, according to Reporter Newspapers.

“Not at all. This is in our wheelhouse,” Bauman said. “This will only apply to municipal crimes. The state law will apply to state crimes.”

Bauman previously said that he hoped his ordinance sends “a strong message” that Georgia should enact a hate crimes law.

“It is embarrassing that we are now one of only four states without such a law,” he told Project Q Atlanta in June.

The Georgia House passed an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law earlier this year, but the bill got held up in the Senate. It will come up for consideration again in 2020.

Bauman was behind the push to expand Sandy Springs’ nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender as classes in 2016. That applied to city employees and city business only. 

Several metro Atlanta cities have recently adopted broader nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit discrimination in private employment, housing and public accommodations. Some, like Dunwoody, also included hate crime reporting as part of their ordinances.

Bauman told Project Q in June that he “support[s] the sentiment and objective” of those ordinances but will wait to see how they play out in other cities before pursuing one in Sandy Springs.