November 24, 2014

Democrats introduce hate crimes bill

Democrats in the South Carolina House are pushing for the creation of a new hate crimes law in South Carolina. Rep. James Smith (D-Richland) is co-sponsoring the bill. During a Thursday press conference, he said South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have such a law.

The last time hate crimes legislation made it to the floor of the House, it failed by only 4 votes. We believe the time is right and the time is now to pass this in South Carolina.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John King (D-Rock Hill), would make it a felony to assault or threaten someone because of their race, sex, religion, age, national origin, or sexual orientation. If convicted, a person could face a fine of at least $2,000 and 2 to 15 years in prison.

King brought the bill forward after a gay Rock Hill teen was the victim of a gang assault last month. A similar bill King sponsored last year never gained traction. However, this year’s version has picked up the support of prominent Democrats in the Legislature. Those party leaders say they will work to ensure the bill gets a hearing either this year or next, planning to make it an issue in 2012.

The NAACP’s South Carolina Chapter President Lonnie Randolph said he hoped the mere threat of prison time would prevent hate crimes.

There’s a quotation by the Ashanti tribe that says, “There is no medicine to cure hatred.” While that may be true medically, socially we can do something about it to make sure that those people who feel that way don’t have the opportunity to hate and do harm to other people.

Christine Johnson, Executive Director of the gay and lesbian advocacy group South Carolina Equality said the state needs to get in line with the rest of the country.

The South Carolina General Assembly has a brilliant opportunity to make a clear and unequivocal statement that people who live in and visit our state are as protected as they are in 45 other states and the District of Columbia.

In the past, opponents have argued a hate crimes law is not necessary, as the state already prosecutes for assault and intimidation. For example, in the Rock Hill beating, five men have been arrested and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. They are facing up to 20 years in prison.