An attack on a gay teen in South Carolina has prompted a state lawmaker to call for legislators to once again consider a hate crime bill.
State Rep. John King (D-Rock Hill), the sponsor of a hate crime bill that last year stalled in the General Assembly, said he plans to reintroduce the bill next week and ask that it be discussed immediately by legislators.
On April 9, Joshua Esskew, 19, who is gay, was assaulted outside a Rock Hill convenience store.
Esskew said he was walking into the store when a man shouted a gay slur at him; when Esskew walked away, that man hit him with a beer bottle in the back of the head.
Even if Esskew was attacked because he’s gay, the state of South Carolina can’t charge anyone with that crime because the state doesn’t have a hate crime law.
King tried to get the law passed last year, but it went nowhere.
“Anytime there’s hate towards anyone — sad situation. It made me realize the bill I introduced a year ago is needed here in South Carolina,” said King, who plans to reintroduce the bill. “We do have people who hate other people because of race or sexual orientation or maybe their religion.”
The FBI on Monday confirmed it is investigating the brutal attack.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in 2009, gives federal authorities power to investigate allegations of crimes against gays.