SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The recent arrest of a South Carolina teen who posted a racist rant to social media is bringing attention to a lack of hate crime laws in the Palmetto State and in Georgia.
There have been efforts in both states to get a hate crime law on the books, but those efforts were defeated in both states this year. Right now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports on its website dedicated to federal hate crime statutes that South Carolina and Georgia are among just four states in the U.S.that don’t have a hate crime law in place.
The DOJ map displays states in three colors. Blue states have passed both laws and data collection mandates for hate crimes. The data collection will help better track hate crimes. The gray states have laws, but no data collection requirements and the red states have neither.
State Representative Carl Gilliard, in Georgia’s 162nd District, says it’s time for the Peach State to take a stand against hate.
“In communities all across rural Georgia or in urban Georgia there are two separate entities and so we’ve got to know that there are people that are experiencing that every day. So we can’t tolerate it,” Gilliard said.
In Georgia, House Bill 426 would criminalize hate crimes if passed. Under the proposed legislation a person convicted of a crime and proved to have been motivated by bias would face punishment ranging from three months to a year and a fine of up to $5,000 for a misdemeanor offense to at least two years in prison for a felony offense.
In South Carolina, it’s House Bill 3068 that would make a hate crime an offense punishable by the state. That bill would make it a felony for someone to assault, intimidate or threaten a person because of their race, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation or homelessness.
Under the bill, someone convicted of a hate crime would face a $2,000 to $10,000 fine and serve two to 15 years in prison. Gilliard says the need for the law in Georgia and South Carolina is written in the blood of a fallen lawmaker.
“Representative Pinckney was murdered in the church of all places. There are synagogues where people are being bombed and shot at,” he said. “We have schools. We have an incident recently where people are being discriminated against up in Ohio. We’ve got to do something and make a stand and I think it’s time for Georgia to rise to that occasion.”
He also quotes another slain leader killed in a hate crime in 1968.
“Dr. King always talked about there’s nothing more positive than an idea whose time has come,” Gilliard said. “This time has come that we move Georgia forward and if we move Georgia forward we need to make it safe and, and be right on the cause of standing against hate in any form or fashion.”
Lawmakers in South Carolina and Georgia have sponsored hate crime bills. Those bills are expected to be reintroduced in South Carolina and in Georgia in 2020.