COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) — South Carolina is one of two states without a state hate crime law on the books. It might stay that way in 2021.
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 and 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.
“It is the right thing to do,” he said. “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, with North Greenville University, said he has concerns with gender and sexual orientation in the legislation.
“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,” Beam said.
The hate crimes bill is on the 24-page Senate calendar for Tuesday. As of Monday afternoon, the legislation is being contested by nine Republican senators, meaning there is a good chance no floor debate on H.3620 occurs this week.
“We’re hopeful there’s a possibility and we’re not going to let go until the Senate adjourns Thursday,” Morgan said.
If the legislation doesn’t pass the Senate this week, he said 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.