SC hate crimes bill faces ‘strong opposition’ in final week of legislative session

South Carolina News

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina is one of two states without a state hate crime law on the books, it might stay that way in 2021.

Last week, a Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send an amended version of the Clementa C. Pickney Hate Crimes Act (H.3620) to the Senate floor.

The bill would enhance penalties for violent crimes fueled by hate. Some of the protected classes include: race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, age.

The Senate Judiciary Committee added political opinion, or the exercise of a person’s political rights and privileges to the legislation.

South Carolina’s business community has shown support for the bill. SC Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan said, “We don’t want South Carolina to be the last state to pass a hate crimes bill.”

He said members of the chamber have been delighted by the progress the bill has made so far but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. He said, “It is the right thing to do. It’s good for business and it’s good for South Carolina.”

The hate crimes bill passed in the House in April with bipartisan support.

Critics of the legislation said they are worried about the impact this bill could have on religious groups in the state. Dr. Tony Beam said he has concerns with gender and sexual orientation in the legislation.

Dr. Beam with North Greenville University told lawmakers, “Christian evangelicals who hold a high view of scripture are also under attack — being considered people who are guilty of hate speech for simply holding a Biblical understanding of sexuality.”

The hate crimes bill is on the 24-page Senate calendar for Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, the legislation is being contested by 9 Republican Senators. Which means there is a good chance no floor debate on H.3620 occurs this week.

Morgan said, “We’re hopeful there’s a possibility and we’re not going to let go until the Senate adjourns Thursday.”

He said if the legislation doesn’t pass the Senate this week they’ll work with anyone interested in advancing the bill and have their sights set on next year.

Since 2022 is the second year of a two-year session, Senators will pick back up where they left off next January.

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