A bill that would punish those convicted of a hate crime with a two-year prison sentence passed a subcommittee in the S.C. House of Representatives on Wednesday, opening up the possibility that South Carolina could some day pass a hate crime law.

H. 3063, which passed in the Criminal Law Subcommittee, would make it a felony to commit an offense “with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of his race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or homelessness.”

Sexual orientation includes gender identity and expression, according to the bill’s language.

Those found guilty would be subject to a minimum of two years in prison and a minimum $2,000 fine. Penalties would not exceed 15 years in prison or $10,000 in fines.

[image-2] The bill now moves to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will be heard when the legislature reconvenes in January 2020. It is sponsored by Charleston-area Reps. Wendell Gilliard, David Mack, Peter McCoy, and Marvin Pendarvis, along with 21 others.

In 2017, hate crimes across the country rose by 17 percent, according to the FBI. The data is based on information sent to the bureau by law enforcement agencies, which are under no obligation to disclose details of a case, especially when they’re not investigated or labeled as “hate crimes.”

In South Carolina, 87 hate crimes were reported across the state in 2017, almost four times the number reported in 2016.
[content-1]”This is a huge victory and big step in the right direction given the fact that hate crimes are on the rise in South Carolina, and I feel confident that this bill is on its way to becoming a law come next legislative term in 2020,” Gilliard said in a statement.

South Carolina is one of only five states that have no hate crime laws on the books. Last year, Charleston became the first city in the state to pass its own hate crime ordinance, which penalizes hate crimes with a $500 fine, 30 days in jail, or both. 

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