COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — More than 80 businesses with ties to South Carolina have signed a letter asking the General Assembly to pass a hate crimes bill in 2021.
Right now, South Carolina is one of three states that does not have a hate crime law on the books.
South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ted Pitts said after conversations of social injustice took center stage this summer, the business community in South Carolina wanted to see change.
Pitts said the Chamber got together and members discussed pushing for a hate crime law in the Palmetto State. “It hasn’t affected in the past but we need to go ahead and pass it so it doesn’t affect us in the future.”
Lawmakers planning on filing a bill in 2021 said a hate crime law would enhance penalties for someone who commits a crime against someone or their property based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Pitts said, “It is something that businesses are taking a closer look at. Georgia passed their law this summer. We had businesses that operate in Georgia and South Carolina proactively reach out to us and say this is important to us and our employees.”
Data from the FBI shows dozens of hate crimes have been reported in South Carolina since they started tracking that. New numbers from 2019 show more than 30 agencies reported close to 70 hate crimes last year.
Pitts said, “We think it’s an important signal to send to the rest of the country and world that South Carolina does hold those values. That we don’t condone hate based acts.”
Critics of hate crimes legislation have said since there is already federal hate crime laws – there is no need for a state one. Governor Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) said he is unsure what the General Assembly will decide to do. “We have a lot of laws that already address hate crimes. Like murder and assault and battery. Whether there needs to be an enhancement is another question.”
Last session, the House created a committee that examined hate crime legislation, social issues and police training. Lawmakers on that committee said they were hoping to draft a hate crimes bill with bipartisan and House leadership support and introduce it in 2021.
The other two states that don’t have a hate crimes law are Arkansas and Wyoming.