COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The South Carolina House of Representatives has once again passed the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act.
Wednesday afternoon, House members voted 84-31 to give the bill second reading.
The legislation would enhance penalties for violent crimes fueled by hate in South Carolina. The bill provides protections for race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability.
In 2021, the House passed a similar bill. That legislation stalled and died in the Senate last year.
The bill is named for Rev. Dr. Clementa C. Pinckney, a former state senator and pastor at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church, who was killed along with eight other church members when a white supremacist gunman opened fire during a 2015 bible study.
The shooter faced federal hate crime charges, but none could be brought by the state because South Carolina is one of two states without hate crimes laws on the books.
Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) said, “This bill will tell the state and the world, we are one in South Carolina. We stand for progress. We stand for unity.”
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats said they worked with Republican leadership to help get the bill through.
Critics of the legislation said they were worried about unintended consequences of the bill. Efforts to tweak the protections in the bill on the House floor failed Wednesday.
Rep. Josiah Magnuson (R-Spartanburg) said, “It is not okay to hurt somebody because they are gay and not okay to hurt somebody because of the color of their skin. What I ask for and have supported in the past and continue to support is protecting everyone equally.”
After a third reading vote Thursday, the bill will be sent to the state Senate. Rep. Gilliard said he is urging people to contact their Senators to support this bill.
He said, “South Carolina should not be the last state in the nation to depend on federal laws to prosecute crimes like the one that took nine lives at Mother Emanuel Church.”