South Carolina, Arkansas and maybe Wyoming, depending on who you ask, are the last holdouts for having a hate crimes law on the books. With bipartisan support, House Bill 3620, also known as the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act, passed in the South Carolina statehouse, but is stalled in the Senate. The act says that if the law can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a violent act was committed because of a person’s skin color, gender or sexuality, the bill would provide additional penalties for the offender and allow victims to bring civil action for damages.
WSPA 7News reached out to Furman University’s Brittany Arsiniega, an attorney and assistant professor of politics and international affairs, to unpack why 10 Republican senators are blocking the bill – opposition that is apparently tied to how “sex” is defined, and the potential for religious leaders to be held accountable for their words in social media.
“Simply having this definition in the hate crime bill doesn’t magically expand that definition to all areas of South Carolina law,” Arsiniega said. “There is still such a thing as first amendment protected speech. So you are still permitted under federal law under South Carolina law to say that you don’t like trans people, that you don’t like gay people. Our Constitution protects speech, even speech that is ugly.”