On Oct. 28, President Barack Obama signed the much-awaited federal hate crimes legislation expanding protection to victims on the basis of sexual orientation and gender-identity. While the legal advancement is good news, LGBT citizens might not be as protected as they think. Columbia’s Free Times reported Nov. 4 that state-level hate crimes legislation are still needed.
“The new federal law is no substitute for state hate crimes enforcement,” Human Rights Campaign Deputy Communications Director Trevor Thomas told the Columbia weekly. “The new law is a federal backstop to help local authorities investigate and prosecute these crimes. States will continue to have primary jurisdiction in the vast majority of cases.”
South Carolina state Rep. Seth Whipper agreed: “Local government can respond much more quickly and comprehensively to this kind of behavior,” he said.
And state legislation might offer more flexibility for local law enforcement agencies.
“We can sometimes offer other alternatives to prosecution or punishment,” Whipper said. “Especially when you’re dealing with adolescents, you want to be able to avoid the sentencing guidelines that the feds use.”
South Carolina is one of only three states nationwide without any form of hate crimes legislation. North Carolina’s statute does not protect victims on the basis of sexual orientation or gender-identity.