Columbia, S.C. - The South Carolina General Assembly is making a push to pass a hate crimes bill in 2023. The bill, named after state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting, passed the House with an 84-31 vote earlier this week.
The bill will allow a judge to sentence violent offenders to an additional five years in prison if they are convicted on a state charge that hate motivated their crime against a victim based on race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical or mental disability.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, who has long pushed for the bill, called it a "great bipartisan effort" and a way to honor Pinckney and all victims of hate crimes. "This bill is all about 'We the People' because hate crime impacts everyone, no matter what creed or color," he said.
However, the bill faces its biggest challenge in the Senate, which failed to pass it last year. Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutton, D-Orangeburg, expressed optimism that the bill would move through the Judiciary Committee and to the floor this year. Last year, the Senate majority resisted taking up the bill for debate, but Hutton said there is new momentum as a result of the House's passage of the bill this week.
Meanwhile, State Representative Jordan Pace, who voted against the bill, said he did so because the bill maintained language that would open the door to innumerable lawsuits against faith-based organizations, and the bill fails to apply the law equally to all. "To me, the idea that the state can criminalize thoughts, no matter how heinous those thoughts may be, is dangerous ground to tread, and I cannot support moving South Carolina in that direction," he said.
Below was the final vote on the bill to pass the hate crime bill in the House: