HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina and Wyoming are the last two states without hate crime laws due to some Republican senators who questioned if it was necessary to add penalties to violent crimes based on someone’s intentions.
However, Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston County, has been working to get hate crime laws passed in the state.
The “Clementa C. Pinckney hate crimes act would require an enhanced penalty for specific crimes committed against a victim who was intentionally selected by an offender because of their belief, race, color, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. The enhanced penalty will be added to the penalty for the underlying offense and will consist of an additional fine of not more than $10,000 and an additional term of imprisonment of up to five years.
The bill is named after Clementa C. Pickney, a state senator who was killed along with eight others in a mass shooting during a bible study at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.
Pickney was a good friend of Gilliard’s and he said he made a promise to the families of the victims that he would work non-stop to get this law put into place.
The bill passed in the House in 2021 and is on the Senators’ calendar for their 2022 session.
“Hate crime is still here, it comes in different forms and looks but it’s still here, and here we are on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who would’ve been 96-years-old, and we are still fighting for a hate crime law in 2022,” Gilliard said.
Gilliard said without hate crime laws, they are not able to track statistics and people are more likely not to report the crime.
“What most states found out was that if you have your own hate crime law, you can expedite these cases and it gives states the access to keep recorded records,” Gilliard said.
He said that as of right now South Carolina has no way of keeping records.
“If you don’t have a track record on these hate crimes, then you’re at a loss, because you don’t know where the hotspot areas are and where these things are occurring,” Gilliard said.
Gilliard said that people need to know that it is not right to harm someone because of who or what they are.
“If we are diligent about wanting to make change, about wanting to make progress, the least we can do in S.C. believe it or not is make this bill come into fruition,” Gilliard said.