South Carolina and Georgia are two of only four U.S. states left without hate crime laws – laws that inflict extra punishment on perpetrators based on the thoughts that might have been in their heads.
That could be changing, WRDW reports.
Some 46 states have hate crime laws on the books. South Carolina and Georgia join Wyoming and Arkansas as the only states that do not. Georgia’s hate crime law was struck down in 2004 for being “unconstitutionally vague.”
“We need to change that,” said Rep. Bill Clyburn (D-Aiken). “To hate someone and to harm them because of the color of their skin or because their eyes are blue or brown or because you’re Catholic or Jewish, you know this is ridiculous.”
U.S. law has long imposed steep penalties for harming others, regardless of the reason, which is at best difficult to identify or measure.
Nonetheless, South Carolina’s State House has a bill sitting in committee that would add extra penalties for hate crimes — for what you’re thinking while committing a crime.
“It’s a priority,” said Rep. Clyburn.
The bill was pre-filed, meaning it will be read on the first day of session. It’s also available to read now. “Before we finish this session, we will have a hate crime bill in South Carolina,” assured Rep. Clyburn.
State legislature goes back into session in January. Rep. Clyburn said he’s sure the bill will pass, and called it a priority on both sides of the aisle.
On the Georgia side, a bill for hate crime laws has passed the House, and is now on its way to the Senate. The hate crime laws make existing punishments even tougher.