Hate Crime Bill Filed in Senate, but Likely Faces Tough Uphill Battle

FEBRUARY 7, 2007 - Posted at 7:21 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Recent history indicates a bill to put a hate-crime law on the books in Arkansas faces tough sailing.

The bill was filed yesterday by Senator Hank Wilkins IV of Pine Bluff.  It would enhance penalties for those committing crimes against others because of their race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry.  The law would step offenses up from a misdemeanor to a felony depending upon the severity of the crime.

Previously, such statutues have failed in the state.  A proposed hate-crime bill failed in the Arkansas Legislature in 2001.  A 2003 bill by Senator Tracy Steele of North Little Rock to create a hate-crime statute passed out of the Senate in a 24-to-4 vote but died in a House committee at the end of the session.

Despite that history, Wilkins said legislators who take a closer look at the measure would be able to understand it and, as he put it, "the importance of reinforcing the dignity and sacred worth of every individual."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)