COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — A hate crimes bill is moving through the South Carolina State House, some say it would exclude gay and transgender people from being protected.
South Carolina is one of three states without a state hate crime law on the books.
A panel of lawmakers made some changes to a bipartisan hate crime bill Thursday. Supporters said this will help get the legislation across the finish line in 2021.
A House Judiciary subcommittee voted to remove protections for ‘gender’ and ‘sexual orientation’ from H.3620. Republican lawmakers said this would help make sure the bill passes in the House before the crucial bill crossover deadline in April.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Chris Murphy (R-District 98) said, “I think this amendment will go a long way to alleviate a lot of the concerns from our membership.”
The legislation would still enhance penalties for crimes committed because of someone’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin or disability.
LGBTQ advocates said this change strips away any protections for their community.
Jarrod Wiggins is a Board Member for SC Equality. He said, “This isn’t an old generation versus a new generation thing. This is just a respect issue. This is just us saying South Carolinians should live their lives they want they want to live their lives.”
Wiggins said he’s disappointed to see the protections removed from the legislation since the LGBTQ community needs it most. “What’s the point of having a hate crimes bill if not every marginalized community is protected. I just don’t see a reason to have it at that point.”
Lawmakers said members of the LGBTQ community would still be protected by the bill because the word ‘sex’ could be interpreted in different ways.
Rep. Weston Newton (R-District 120) said, “There is a recent supreme court case where the language and federal statue ‘sex’ is interpreted to include homosexuality and transgender.”
The subcommittee voted unanimously to send the bill to the full House Judiciary Committee.
Lawmakers also removed a portion of the bill that allowed civil penalties and clarified some language that made sure the hate crime enhancement doesn’t exceed the original crime.