BATON ROUGE, La. (UPI) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill, becoming the first state in the country to protect police officers under a hate-crime law.

Typically applied to crimes against victims based on race or religion, the new law will now add police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians to those with special protections under the law. Although there are currently at least 37 states with special penalties for violence against police officers, Louisiana is now the first to protect them under hate-crime laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

“The men and women who put their lives on the line every day, often under very dangerous circumstances are true heroes and they deserve every protection that we can give them,” Edwards, a Democrat and son of a sheriff, said in a statement. “They serve and protect our communities and our families. The overarching message is that hate crimes will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”

However, giving people special protection under the law because of their chosen profession did have its opponents.

“Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, regional director of Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL supports special protection for police officers, she said, but the law “weakens the impact of the Hate Crimes Act by adding more categories of people who are already better protected under other laws.”

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