Charleston City Council takes first step to establish ‘hate crime’ ordinance

CHARLESTON, SC – Charleston City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night on first reading to establish a “hate crime” ordinance in the city. The ordinance in part reads that anyone intentionally intimidating another person due to their actual or perceived:

Race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or national origin…is guilty of the separate offense of hate intimidation.

The new ordinance would punish people for bias motivated crimes. It’s called a hate intimidation ordinance. “Charleston is doing on its own what lawmakers in Columbia have been unable to do for the past 4 years” according to Jeff Ayers, Executive Director of SC Equality. “It’s ridiculous for South Carolina to be one of only five states in the U.S. without a hate crimes law. This has to change, and it will be one of the top 4 priorities we will work on come January.”

South Carolina is one of five states that does not legally recognize hate crimes.

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On Tuesday afternoon, the Public Safety Committee gave support for the hate intimidation ordinance. The ordinance must pass three readings before it becomes law and can be enforced.

The ordinance says people will be punished if they have the intent to intimidate another person because of their perceived race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or national origin.

Mayor John Tecklenburg supports the proposed ordinance stating, “We as a community need to be unified around this issue and be real clear about how we feel about hate particularly when it manifests itself through crime.”

According to newly released FBI data, hate crimes rose 17 percent last year.

They have been on the rise for at least the last three years, according to the report. 

Bias motivated crimes in South Carolina are only recognized on a federal level. That means it is up to the Department of Justice to determine if they’ll seek prosecution.  One of SC Equality’s priorities when the legislature returns in January is to support a statewide hate crimes bill and see one passed next year.

One step at a time.  We are working with other municipalities across the state on similar ordinances.  By speaking up to your elected officials in your community we can move one step forward on making South Carolina a state where Equal Means Everyone.