Hate Crimes Bill Introduced in SC General Assembly
May 18, 2011
SOUTH CAROLINA EQUALITY WORKS WITH NAACP AND REPRESENTATIVES TO INTRODUCE HATE CRIMES BILL
Columbia, SC May 19th, 2011- Today, South Carolina Equality, the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) education and political advocacy organization, working with representatives and other community leaders, is pleased to announce the introduction of a fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill in the South Carolina General Assembly. When last introduced, the bill failed in the House by only four votes.
Passage of Hate Crimes bill will represent a giant step forward to ensuring that all South Carolinians may live their lives safely and freely without threat of biased-based crime. It also creates assurance that those who commit hate crimes are adequately punished.
Christine Johnson, Executive Director of South Carolina Equality said, "The South Carolina General Assembly has a brilliant opportunity to make a clear and unequivocal statement that people who live in and visit our beautiful state are as protected as they are in 45 other states and the District of Columbia. Rejection of a statewide hate crimes bill, when other similarly conservative states have passed such legislation, would do nothing more than speak an endorsement of bias and hate-based crimes."
South Carolina currently has no statute to protect its citizens against violence brought about because of their real or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government all have Hate Crimes statutes similar to the one introduced in South Carolina today.
Hate Crime laws are important tools for law enforcement and the criminal justice system, providing expanded prevention and breadth of prosecution. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act applies exclusively to felony crimes, often leaving a gap where lesser hate crimes go unpunished. Having a statewide Hate Crimes bill would close the gap and allow for the first responders, our local law enforcement agencies and solicitors, to support victims adequately and fully investigate and prosecute Hate Crimes that occur in South Carolina.
Recent reports of alleged of Hate Crimes in York County and Spartanburg County are examples of crimes that may not merit Federal prosecution, but would potentially qualify under a state hate crimes law.
South Carolina Equality lauds Representative King and Representative Smith for the introduction of this statewide Hate Crimes bill. South Carolina Equality will work throughout the remainder of the 2011 Legislative Session and into the 2012 session to educate and foster support for this much needed bill.