This year, HRC and South Carolina (SC) Equality have been tracking 11 anti-LGBT bills and this Sunday marks an important procedural deadline on the South Carolina General Assembly’s legislative calendar. Once Sunday passes, all of these bills will have very little chance of becoming law in South Carolina in the final month of session due to legislative procedural restrictions.
The most notable bill to garner consideration this session is S.1203, which was introduced by Senator Lee Bright. The bill took its lead from the discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina – HB 2. If passed, it would have forced transgender people in South Carolina to use the bathroom inconsistent with their gender identity in all government facilities, including schools, while also taking away the ability for cities and counties to pass commonsense protections for transgender people in public accommodations.
In response, SC Equality led a broad coalition of LGBT and ally organizations, transgender youth groups, the SC business community, small business owners, attorneys, educators, politicians, faith leaders, parents and children to oppose the bill. Sen. Bright (R) and Sen. Joel Lourie (D), the two members of the Senate General Subcommittee spent two days hearing public testimony on this bill, with the overwhelming majority of speakers in opposition.
SC Equality Executive Director Jeff Ayers said, "South Carolina told the nation it will not make the mistakes of its northern neighbor. We applaud the Senate, our friends and ally organizations, and we join our state in proudly saying South Carolina does not stand for discrimination or wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary legislation, and that we are open for Business. SC Equality would particularly like to thank the elected officials and attached list of organizations who continue to oppose this effort.”
In addition to an anti-transgender bathroom bill, HRC and SC Equality were tracking 10 other bills that would have negatively impacted LGBT South Carolinians, including 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. Other bills that now are extremely unlikely to pass this session include bills targeting transgender athletes and state prisoners, attempts to defy last year’s marriage equality ruling by the US Supreme Court, and anti-LGBT religious refusal legislation. All of this legislation failed to meet the necessary procedural deadlines.
But the session isn’t over yet, and supporters of equality in South Carolina need to remain vigilant. Jeff Ayers from SC Equality cautioned, "While we celebrate this monumental victory today, we caution South Carolinians that Sen. Lee Bright has noted his intention to attempt to include a version of the language of S.1203 as a proviso in the state's budget to be considered by the Senate very soon. We caution opponents of this bill to steadfastly continue to speak out about such discriminatory efforts."
News reports say that Bright will try to add a proposal to the state budget that would ban state funding to local governments that pass anti-discrimination laws requiring businesses to allow transgender people to use the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. The mayors of Columbia, Charleston, Florence, Anderson, Greenwood and Abbeville have all spoken out against this bill, and Richland County, as well as the cities of Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach have ordinances that would be threatened by these radical efforts.
HRC has staff based in South Carolina, and we will continue to support SC Equality and a broad coalition of local organizations to monitor and fight against any further legislative attempts to discrimination in the Palmetto State. For more information about how to get involved in South Carolina, contact HRC’s Senior Regional Field Organizer Ryan Wilson at email@example.com.