via Flickr

This is the first time that Georgia has passed a bill that protects the LGBTQ community.

The US state of Georgia has passed a hate crime bill that specifically includes protections for the LGBTQ community. The passing of the bill means that if someone is abused, either physically or verbally, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it will be treated as a hate crime.

Jeff Graham, the executive director for Georgia Equality, said: “It is truly a historic moment for Georgia. A bill that was first passed at the state level in California in 1984 and has been a priority of Georgia’s LGBTQ community part since the early 1990’s has finally passed Georgia’s House of Representatives.”

And Shelley Rose, the deputy regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “While we cannot outlaw anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or other forms of bigotry, we can significantly improve hate crime response in Georgia by joining the 45 other states and the District of Columbia in putting hate crime legislation on the books.”

A hate crime bill had previously been passed, but this had been vetoed in 2004 after the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled it as unconstitutional, as it did not include specific groups.

Alongside the passing of HB426, representatives have also filed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, HB580, which seeks to ban gay ‘cure’ therapy in the state.

Representative Matthew Wilson, who co-sponsored the bill said: “All children in Georgia should receive care that first, does no harm.  Conversion therapy has no scientific basis and contradicts the medical community’s understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I am proud to sponsor this bill that helps ensure the safety of Georgia’s LGBTQ youth by outlawing this incredibly dangerous practice.”

15 U.S. states have already passed bans on gay ‘cure’ therapy. Those states are New Jersey, California, Oregon, IllinoisVermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, NevadaWashingtonHawaiiDelawareMaryland, New Hampshire and New York.