South Carolina is one of two remaining states that have not passed a hate crimes law. The other is Wyoming, whose latest attempt at passing a law failed in 2021. Despite explaining and bargaining with state Republicans, there are only days left until the measure dies on the legislative floor.
In a last effort, supporters showed a two-minute video of Polly Sheppard, a survivor of the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, asking state Republicans to at least vote on the bill, as reported by the Associated Press. Dylann Roof is currently on death row after being convicted of hate crimes under federal law. Opponents of the bill point to that as a cop-out and have said a crime is a crime no matter the motivation, and a hate crime bill could eventually be used to curtail free speech, especially against Christians.
If passed, the bill would add up to five years in prison for someone convicted of murder, assault, or other violent crime fueled by hatred of the victim’s race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability. Sheppard ended the video by saying the names of the eight Republicans objecting to the bill and the tag line “What will you do!?”
“Eight members of the South Carolina Senate are giving a safe haven to hate. Every time you look at senator Pinckney’s photograph, you should be reminded that hate killed him,” Sheppard said.
“What is wrong with protecting us from hate crimes?” Sheppard said in a quiet, but firm voice. “Please remove your objection so this bill can pass today.”
The Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act passed in the House in 2021 and has until May 12th until state legislators will have to start all over again. Black, Democratic lawmakers, point to the lack of a law making South Carolina an attractive place to go for white supremacists.
“Because we refuse to even take up this hate crimes bill, now South Carolina is being touted across the world as a great place to come (for white nationalists),” Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews, D-Walterboro, told colleagues on the Senate floor April 27.
“That’s what it’s saying in there. I don’t know any other way to say this other than ‘shame on you’ if we don’t take this up before the end of session,” she added.