SC House Democrats call on Senate to pass hate crimes bill

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — On the first day of Black History Month, members of the South Carolina Black Caucus and House Democrats are calling on the Senate to pass a hate crimes bill.

South Carolina is one of two states in the country without a specific hate crimes bill.

“That is not an example we should not send to the world. That must change.” said Rep. Pat Henegan from Bennettsville. “It is something that we must change this year.”

“This hate crime bill is about the right to life,” said Rep. Wendell Gilliard from Charleston.

House bill 3620 would create penalty enhancements for specific crimes committed against a victim based on their race, sex, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

“Passing this bill sends a message to those who would commit terrible violence motivated by hatred of a victim’s race that they will be held accountable,” Henegan said. “They will bear the full weight of the law.”

The bill passed the house by a vote of 72 to 29 last year but was not taken up by the senate. It’s something Rep. Beth Bernstein says has support on both sides of the aisle.

“Just because we’re the ones standing here does not mean that it’s just a Democratic issue,” Bernstein said. “This is an issue that received bipartisan support, overwhelmingly in the house.”

This was echoed by Republican house member Chris Murphy last year when the bill was being discussed.

“This is a long overdue effort in South Carolina,” Murphy said.

Now, House members are looking to the Senate to pass the bill.

“It’s not only the morally right thing to do, but it is good for our state’s bottom line because it would attract the best and brightest to South Carolina,” Bernstein said.

However, Senator Shane Massey has been quoted as saying that the bill in its current form does not protect anybody or make anyone’s life better. 

“While we do have senators that support this bill, we need to make sure it becomes a priority for the senate chamber,” Bernstein said.s

“Great senators over there. Now we need them to stand up and show a little backbone. We can’t wait on Washington,” Gilliard concluded. “We’re here to take care of our state among ourselves. God bless you.”

Categories: Local News, Richland