A white supremacist targeted Black worshippers at Mother Emanuel in 2015, killing nine people | File photo by Jonathan Boncek

Two survivors of the 2015 racist massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston that killed nine told a group of state senators Tuesday that South Carolina’s lack of a hate crimes law is an insult to their suffering.

“I’m praying, I’m hoping that this hate crime bill will pass so that no other family — it wouldn’t stop them, but if they know that they have consequences that’s going to follow what they do, that’s going to slow it down tremendously,” survivor Felicia Sanders of Charleston told the committee according to a report by WCSC TV

South Carolina is one of only two states without a hate crimes law. The other is Wyoming. 

Those in favor of the bill cite an increase in reported hate crimes as well as online forums where hate groups note the state’s lack of a hate crime law marks South Carolina as a place that might be accepting of them. These arguments, however, have been made before.

Supporters of a hate crime bill have fought unsuccessfully for years to pass the bill in South Carolina as the number of states without a hate crimes law in the U.S. steadily dropped. The newest iteration of the bill is in a familiar position to previous attempts. 

The bill has already passed the S.C. House, and the Senate subcommittee passed it Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s 15-8 vote that afternoon sent it to the Senate floor, where it died last year. Senate Republicans last year said the bill could be used against conservative Christian groups and that “a crime is a crime” according to news reports. 

The bill would allow a judge to sentence offenders to up to an additional five years in prison if a violent crime was motivated by hate toward the victim’s race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or physical or mental disability. A separate version of the bill is being considered in the Senate. This alternate version includes a definition of sex and a statement that nothing in the bill should violate freedom of speech. 

In other headlines:

North Charleston mayor’s race to be competitive, crowded. The North Charleston mayor’s race is already underway with three official bids in place and more expected to come.

Charleston County sheriff opposes likely pick for jail’s next health care provider. Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano’s opposition comes amid calls for a federal investigation into the jail after half a dozen inmates died last year.

Charleston school board member asked to resign amid alleged threats. Charleston County School Board member Ed Kelley was asked to resign after a woman alleged he publicly stated that if his child’s teacher came out as transgender, he would show up at the educator’s doorstep with a gun.

DHEC holds community meeting to address Charleston County landfill concerns. State and county officials on Tuesday met to address ongoing community concerns about a West Ashley landfill.

Breeze to launch first-ever Charleston-to-Charleston flights. Breeze Airways this summer will launch the first-ever nonstop flights between two Charlestons — the capital of West Virginia and the former capital of South Carolina.

S.C. Senate committee recommends disabilities commission be dissolved. S.C. senators on Tuesday unanimously voted on a bill that would eliminate the commission that oversees the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and re-establish it as part of the governor’s cabinet at the Statehouse.

  • To get dozens of South Carolina news stories every business day, contact the folks at SC Clips.

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