House Bill 3620, also known as the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act, in honor of the late state senator who was killed along with eight others in a racially motivated shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston 2015, passed in the South Carolina House last year. Democratic members of the house held a press conference on Tuesday to urge passage of the bill, but as Newsweek notes, it is doubtful it will see a vote this year.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey spoke to AP News and stated that he and his fellow Republicans believe “current laws and how they are enforced are properly punishing people for what are considered hate crimes.” Massey also doesn’t feel the new legislation makes things better.
“The way this bill is drafted, it doesn’t do anything to protect anybody. It doesn’t make anybody’s life better,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, according to the AP.
His Democratic colleagues, along with activists, disagree with this assumption – arguing that the current hate crime provisions are only used in high profile cases like Dylan Roof, who is on federal death row after being tried under the federal hate crimes law for the 2015 shooting.
“Hate crime laws are a way for society to recognize that these crimes strike special fear in the victimized group, can fragment communities, and tear at the very fabric of our democratic way of life,” Representative Beth Bernstein said at the press conference, according to WCBD. “That is why it is so important for the state of South Carolina to send a message that our state rejects bias motivated violence and we welcome all.”
The bill would allow prosecutors to ask the same jury that convicted someone for extra punishment for a violent crime based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability of the victim. One compromise is that this bill only covers violent crimes. One hundred businesses from South Carolina joined together to call on their congressional leader to pass the bill last year.