House Bill 953, which aims to add first-responders to the list of protected classes under the state’s hate crime law, breezed through the state Senate, with a vote of 33-3 on Tuesday. Governor John Bel Edwards is now expected to sign the bill into law.
The many critics of the Louisiana bill have contended that adding professions to the list of protected classes, undermines the purpose of hate crime laws. Under current Louisiana law, hate crime protections apply to race, age, gender, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, creed, sexual orientation or organizational affiliation.
Those convicted of felonies involving hate crimes face an additional five years in prison and fine of up to $5,000, while misdemeanors determined to be hate crimes add an additional $500 fine or up to six months in prison.
The New Orleans chapter of Black Youth Project released a statement calling the legislation “an insidious attempt to destabilize our First Amendment rights as community members who hold the police, and others sworn by oath to serve and protect, accountable.”
“We have to stop this malicious trend before it starts — we cannot allow the gains of the civil rights movement to be squandered away by police officers scrambling to avoid criticism from their constituents,” the statement reads.