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Sexual orientation removed from S.C. hate crimes bill

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 8:57 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Although a hate crimes bill is working its way through the South Carolina Legislature, the measure won’t offer protection to gay or transgender people.

A Republican leader says he doesn’t think the bill will get enough immediate support if it includes them.

A House subcommittee passed an amendment Thursday that removes sexual orientation, creed, gender, age and ancestry from the bill.

Supporters of the bill as originally written say they wonder if it’s worth having a hate crimes law that doesn’t protect gay and transgender people, who they say are among those who most need the protection.

The push for a hate crimes law in South Carolina — one of three states without one — comes after House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, formed a committee after a summer of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

A group of business leaders from around the state also came together to ask for the passage of this bill last month.

This movement comes as hate crimes have almost quadrupled in four years in South Carolina, according to the Anti-Defamation League. House Bill H.3620 states anyone convicted of a violent crime, harassment or stalking offense or a malicious injury offense would face stricter penalties if prosecutors proved the victim was targeted because they fall under several protected classes.

Those include race, color, creed, religion, sex, gender, age, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. The bill states the person convicted of the crime would face tougher penalties regardless of whether their perception about the victim is correct.

A person convicted could face an additional five years in jail under this law if they commit a violent crime based on bias against one of those groups.

Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, noted during the legislation does not create new laws surrounding harassment, stalking, or violent crimes but rather enhances the penalty if there is a hate-inspired motivation.

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