South Carolina is one of five states that does not have any hate crime laws.
That could change in one of its largest cities.
At a Charleston City Council meeting Tuesday, an ordinance that would establish a hate crime law unanimously passed a first reading, WCIV reported.
If it becomes a law, the hate intimidation ordinance will be an additional punishment for people who commit crimes, according to WCSC. To be enacted into a law, the ordinance has to pass two more readings.
According to the ordinance, it would apply to anyone who commits a crime “with the intent to intimidate another person or persons in whole or in part because of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or national origin.”
Charleston City Council is taking these steps, “because the state government has failed to do so,” according to the Washington Post.
If enacted, it would only apply to the city of Charleston. Along with South Carolina, the only other states without hate crime laws are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana and Wyoming.
The ordinance was created by the public safety committee. It comes in the wake of an August assault on a transgender person outside of a Charleston nightclub.
“I think it’s important that we take a stand against hate, that we have total clarity, total solidarity as a city against hate of any kind,” said Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds, according to WCSC. “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.”
The most notorious example of a hate crime in Charleston was the 2015 church shooting.
Dylann Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist, murdered nine black parishioners in June 2015 during a Bible study session at Charleston’s historic Mother Emanuel AME Church.
Roof purposely selected that church because of its black parishioners and he told FBI agents he was hoping to start a race war, The State reported. Roof pleaded guilty to nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He is on death row in Indiana.
Although he did not face any hate crime charges in S.C., a federal jury convicted Roof of murder and hate crimes, The State reported.
Hate intimidation ordinance
An ordinance to amend the Code of the City of Charleston, South Carolina, Chapter 21, to add a new Section 1 providing that a person who violates another section of Chapter 21 with the intent to intimidate another person or persons in whole or in part because of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or national origin of the other person or persons is guilty of the separate offense of hate intimidation and shall be punished as provided in Section 1-16.