Sean Rayford file photo


Georgia's Republican-led General Assembly passed a hate crime law this week, likely soon leaving South Carolina as one of just three remaining states without laws enacting stiffer penalties for hate-motivated crimes against its citizens.

The killing of Ahmaud Arbery by a group of white men on Feb. 23 motivated the move by Georgia legislators. Three men have been charged in Arbery's death in Brunswick, Ga. A father and son reportedly confronted the 25-year-old from their pickup truck as he was out for a run while another man videotaped Arbery's final moments before he was shot and killed.

Georgia first passed hate crimes legislation in 2010, but it was struck down for being too vague. The new bill allows judges to impose increased sentences against those who target victims based on perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp says he will sign the bill once it passes through a legal review.

In South Carolina, hate crimes proposals have sat before the legislature for years, with increasing pressure coming after the 2015 killings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. But no significant progress has been made to pass the legislation. Dylann Roof was convicted of federal hate crimes in the mass murder and awaits execution at a federal prison in Ohio.

FBI statistics show that hate crimes have been on the rise in South Carolina with 111 reported in 2018, the most recent year of available data.

Picking up where the state has left off, local governments in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville have enacted their own hate crime ordinances.

Once the Georgia bill is signed into law, South Carolina, Arkansas and South Dakota will be the only American states without hate crime laws.

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