Last week, a handful of conservative state Senators in South Carolina voted to advance S.31, a bill calling on the US Congress to amend the United States Constitution to allow states to roll back marriage equality on a state by state basis, but ultimately the bill has little chance of passing this session.
S.31 was introduced last year by conservative Senator Larry Grooms, but the bill has been stuck in limbo in the Senate Judiciary Committee since last April. Finally, after months of skipping over the bill - a clear sign that committee members have no appetite for it - S.31 was amended and advanced with a vote of 17 to 3. HRC thanks the three Democrats on the committee, Senators Sabb, Bright-Matthews, and Hutto, for voting against this bill.
Seeking to undermine the historic marriage equality ruling last year by the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, S.31 calls on Congress to host a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution of the United States to allow all states to determine their own definitions of marriage. If the Constitution were to be amended in this way, it would give states the ability to roll back marriage equality if they oppose it,, effectively stripping away years of progress and placing millions of same-sex marriages in jeopardy.
Fortunately, that prospect is not likely: the South Carolina legislature has no authority to force Congress to begin the process of amending the Constitution, and would not be able to influence the outcome of that process. This bill is simply political theatre for anti-equality legislators to publicly show their displeasure with the Supreme Court of the United States ruling last June.
Thankfully, after the committee voted to advance the bill, Senator Hutto placed an administrative hold on the bill known as a “minority report”. With a minority report, the bill cannot be brought up on the Senate floor unless it receives a two-thirds vote to place it on Special Order. If the bill were to receive Special Order, it would be placed behind a mounting pile of other contentious legislative priorities for this session.
HRC will continue to monitor this bill and nine other anti-equality pieces of legislation and support the local work of our partners at South Carolina Equality and the ACLU of South Carolina. These attacks on fairness and equality in South Carolina are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 34 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.