Last week, South Carolina’s Republican Governor Nikki Haley spoke out against anti-transgender legislation that was introduced in the Palmetto State.
“While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle that we’ve seen is needed in South Carolina,” Haley told reporters, referencing similar legislation that advanced in Tennessee and passed in North Carolina last month. “And it’s not something that we see that citizens are asking for in South Carolina.”
Upstate Senator Lee Bright introduced S.1203 on Wednesday. The bill takes its lead from the outrageous, extreme and discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina, HB 2. It would force transgender people to use the bathroom consistent with their biological sex, not their gender identity, in all publicly-owned facilities including schools. It then goes even further: S.1203 would take away the ability for cities and counties to pass common sense non-discrimination protections that would allow transgender people to access other bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.
The city of Columbia made history in 2008 in the state after it passed local non-discrimination protections in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Since then, there has been no reported increase in risk to public safety in the state’s capital city. Additionally, Richland County, Charleston and Myrtle Beach have similar ordinances that would be threatened by this bill.
Bright is facing several challengers in what could be a tough reelection campaign and some public officials in South Carolina are questioning if Bright is using transgender people and the recent fall out from North Carolina’s HB 2 to score political points. Bright is known for his anti-LGBT tirades on the Senate floor, including his rant against the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision in favor of nationwide marriage equality last year.
“Bright must be deaf to the outcry from North Carolinians across the political spectrum and the business community who know discrimination hurts, not helps, our communities. This stunt is incredibly short sighted,” South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jamie Harrison said in a statement. “Mr. Bright continues to be an embarrassment for South Carolina! We will not tolerate the hate & division that plagues North Carolina in our beloved Palmetto State!”
Additionally, South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson slammed Sen. Bright and his ‘bathroom bill’ in a speech on the Senate floor.
“Yesterday South Carolina sank to a new low," he told the Senate. "We're going to have the Lee Bright genitalia patrol for bathrooms in South Carolina. That is the most blatant form of intrusion, of discrimination of sexual orientation. Now we are becoming the laughing stock in the nation because we are joining North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.”
S.1203 is just one of numerous anti-LGBT bills introduced in South Carolina this session and its introduction comes at a time when economic fallout in the neighboring southern state of North Carolina continues to grow. Already, over 130 business leaders have signed a letter demanding the repeal of North Carolina’s HB 2. Conference planners have begun rescheduling their meetings to other states, the state’s federal funding could be at risk and the NCAA and NFL have both said that North Carolina could lose future sporting events if the bill is not repealed.
Members of South Carolina’s General Assembly should take note of the damaging impact that passage of these types of bills could have on their state’s economy.
HRC has staff based in South Carolina and we are working with SC Equality, the ACLU and the National Center for Transgender Equality to oppose this dangerous legislation. For more information about how to get involved in South Carolina, contact HRC’s Senior Regional Field Organizer Ryan Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.