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Bill filed to protect LGBT rights in NC

There is a new bill to fight against hate crimes in North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There is a new bill to fight against hate crimes in North Carolina.

The legislation filed on Wednesday would expand the state's hate crime law to include protections for the LGBT community.

It comes just days after leaders of a Charlotte church say it was vandalized with a hateful message. That church openly supports the LGBT community.

A sign outside Caldwell Presbyterian Church reads, "God invites. We welcome. All."

Church leaders believe that may be why they were targeted and they say the new bill is welcome.

Church leaders showed NBC Charlotte how the vandals broke in through the bathroom window. It’s a bathroom that is for all genders to use.

The vandals went on to write graffiti on door windows on the inside, according to church leaders. But it’s a scribbled bible verse that caught their attention the most.

“[It] has to do with the sin of a man lying with a man,” says Sally Herlong, operations and business manager for Caldwell Presbyterian Church.

NBC Charlotte asked Herlong if she considers the incident a hate crime.

“Well, it seemed like it. I don't know if it was intended that way. But when that happens to us it hurts on a personal level,” says Herlong.

That was last Thursday night. On Wednesday, a new bill was filed to expand the state's hate crime law to protect the LGBT community.

“Our state is certainly not one that's considered to be friendly to LGBT people which makes it all the more important that these protections are passed,” says Matt Hirschy, director of advancement for Equality North Carolina.

However, opponents say hate crime legislation is not necessary because there are already statutes to punish people for committing crimes.

“There’s no need to add these categories to the existing hate crimes law-- which is very hard to apply and interpret anyway,” says Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition.

The new bill would also increase penalties for some offenses from misdemeanors to felonies.

“To make a statement that we're not going to tolerate hate,” says Herlong.

Church leaders say the thieves also stole more than $200 of coffee and coffee equipment.

NBC Charlotte has not heard back from police on an exact motive in the church incident. Police say no arrests have been made, but it is an ongoing and active investigation.

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