Dustin Waters file photo

LGBTQ advocacy groups say a reported Oct. 25 incident being investigated as a hate crime by Charleston police under a local ordinance reiterates the need for statewide protections.

According to a press release sent by Charleston police on Tuesday, a man was subjected to an “anti-gay slur” Sunday morning as he stood by his car in the area near Rutledge Avenue and Carolina Street, just north of the Crosstown Expressway. After the suspect displayed a firearm and threw a phone charger at the victim, he fled the scene, police said.

“Hate has no place in the city of Charleston,” Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said. “We’re actively proceeding under the city’s Hate Crime Ordinance and will prosecute this crime to the fullest extent of the law.”

Charleston’s hate/intimidation ordinance allows a stronger sentence — a $500 fine or 30 days in jail — for crimes committed “with the intent to intimidate another person” on the basis of “race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, or national origin.”

But Charleston’s law is unique. Most local governments do not have added protections.

“Now is the time to get serious about passing a hate crime law here in South Carolina,” said Chase Glenn, the executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance and a leader in Stamp Out Hate, a new coalition of groups leading the push for a statewide hate crime law. “It shouldn’t require high-profile hate crimes to highlight the need for a law.”

Hate crime laws have been proposed at the state level for years, including by Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard, but none have gotten traction, often being retired between legislative sessions. Stamp Out Hate is hoping to build support for a successful proposal once the General Assembly returns in January.

“This isn’t a political issue; this isn’t only about LGBTQ people,” Glenn said. “This is about creating safer communities for all South Carolinians — sending a clear message that our state is a safe and welcoming place for all people, and hate has no place here.”

To learn more about Stamp Out Hate or add your organization or name to its petition, visit the coalition’s website, stampouthate.sc.

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