COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina is one of three states in the country without a state hate crime law. That could change in 2021.
A bipartisan panel of House members listened to testimony from various stakeholders about the impact a state law could have. Business leaders, religious leaders, prosecutors, attorneys, law enforcement, and those who have lost loved ones because of a hate crime.
Critics of state hate crime laws have said before in the past, since there is a federal law in place there is no need for a state one.
Eric Johnson said he has experienced hate and racism, "Hate doesn't care who it attacks at all."
He spoke before the Criminal Statutory Review Subcommittee of the Equitable Justice System and Law Enforcement Reform Committee. The subcommittee wants to send recommendations to the full committee for a potential hate crime bill that will be pre-filed before 2021.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the legislative session, hate crime bills that were filed in 2019 and 2020 stalled.
Blondelle Gadsden lost her sister in the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. She said a state hate crime bill will honor those who lost their lives.
"When someone shows you who they are and when they commit crimes that show they are filled with hate, we have to address it in that manner," Gadsden said.
The bipartisan subcommittee will meet again to continue talks on the bill. They are exploring penalty enhancements and want to work closely with prosecutors and attorneys to make sure the bill has a chance to pass.
Representative Weston Newton (R-Beaufort) said, "The ranking of being one of the three states without a hate crime bill shows this is long past due. We are going to do everything we can to make sure we can pass some hate crime legislation in the next session."
Johnson said he's hopeful after Wednesday's meeting, "The fact this a bipartisan group shows the issue is what matters the most."
Arkansas and Wyoming are the only other states who do not have state hate crime laws.