Friends, family of slain man hold candlelight vigil at State House - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Friends, family of slain man hold candlelight vigil at State House

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A vigil will be held at the State House on Tuesday for a young man believed to be a victim of a hate crime.

Back in May 2007, 20-year-old Sean Kennedy died outside of a Greenville bar. Kennedy was an openly gay man.

Deputies believe then 18-year-old Stephen Moller insulted Kennedy about his sexuality and punched him while he walked to his car.

Friends and family of Kennedy met at the State House at 5:30pm to protest an early release for Stephen Moller and to hold a candlelight memorial for Kennedy.

There are no hate crime laws in this state, and Kennedy's family is working to change that.

It was just the kind of night Sean's mom says her son would have lived for.

"He always said, 'when I get older, I'm gonna change this, make sure people are treated equally,'" says Elke Kennedy.

But the fact is, Sean Kennedy's death brought many people together.

"This is my mission. Sean's death, in order for it not to be in vain, my job is to do whatever I can to change things so it doesn't happen again," says Kennedy.

Sean's death in Greenville was never deemed a hate crime, because hate crimes aren't recognized in this state.

But if you ask the folks at the rally, they happen.

"In high school, I was accosted constantly, dragged into a bathroom, had my face beat up and lost three teeth from it," said one person.

"We're not here to get revenge," said Kennedy. "This is about social justice, every citizen in South Carolina deserves protection."

Kennedy wants her son's killer to stay in prison. She took her concern to the parole board, asking for him to stay longer than eight months.

Whether it was a hate crime or not, she says its a light sentence for a heavy loss.    

"As a matter of fact he is here, he is with us tonight. Maybe that's why we have such a beautiful evening," she said.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are 45 listed hate groups in the state, one of the highest numbers in the US.

Reported by Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

Updated by Jeremy Turnage

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