FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Kentucky Sens. Morgan McGarvey and Gerald Neal have announced legislation that would enhance hate crime law in the state and outline protections for victims.
“What’s on the books now, which is characterized as hate crime legislation, is not effective in any way,” Neal said at a news conference Tuesday. The lawmakers have filed similar legislation in the past.
The bill proposes an extension of prison time if the crime is proven to be committed based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
McGarvey, in discussing how the bill could be effective in punishing hate crimes, recalled a 2018 shooting in a Louisville Kroger in which a white man fatally shot two Black shoppers.
Though 51-year-old Gregory Bush pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes, McGarvey said the state didn’t “have the means to hold him accountable in Kentucky because we didn’t have this law on our books.”
Kelly Watson, the daughter of one of the victims of the shooting, said the bill was necessary to hold perpetrators accountable.
“Hate crimes are particularly heinous. They are meant to cause fear, they are meant to intimidate not just the victims, but the community,” Watson said. “We are three years out, but it still feels like yesterday that we are missing my father at holiday events. At birthdays, things that he would have wanted to attend with us.”