December 17, 2014

Feisty debate in SC Senate references nipples, Hitler, and lesbian sex

A debate over LBGT-themed literature led to what may have been the most entertaining exchange between state senators in recent memory. Two senators managed to reference women’s nipples, Hitler, and sexual intercourse during one particularly memorable back-and-forth.

Image: SCETV

Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, filibusters against the cuts during Wednesday’s proceedings

Background:

The South Carolina Senate entered Day Two of the budget debate on Wednesday and stayed late into the evening as they continued to decide on how best to handle an estimated $24.5 billion state spending plan. However, hours of the debate were spent on just $69,000 of that.

That was the amount that social conservatives sought to cut from the budgets at the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina-Upstate for requiring incoming freshmen to read gay-themed literature they called “pornographic.” The College of Charleston had required freshmen to read “Fun Home,” a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel about her life growing up as a lesbian with an abusive closeted homosexual father. University of South Carolina-Upstate had required students to read “Out Loud,” a nonfiction book about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio station.

The state House included the cuts when it approved the budget in March, but the Senate Finance Committee took the language out last week. Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, brought an amendment to the floor Wednesday that would restore the cuts. But the amendment quickly became bogged down in extremely passionate debate from both sides. The two sides did not fall entirely along party lines, although Republicans were more likely to support the cuts and Democrats more likely to oppose. Opponents argued the cuts amounted to censorship and were borderline homophobic.

The Exchange

But supporters of the cuts insisted the books, especially “Fun Home,” contained pornographic images they believed were inappropriate for state-run universities to buy and distribute. This was the point State Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville, tried to make in what became one of the year’s most memorable exchanges with State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

State Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville

State Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville

Corbin asked Hutto, who was filibustering the cuts at the time, if he was willing to show an image from the graphic novel to the ETV cameras which stream the Senate proceedings online. The image shows two women in the act of sexual intercourse. Hutto initially refused, saying, “I don’t need the book to tell you what an exposed nipple looks like on a female body!” But he soon asked for a copy of the novel from Sen. Fair, then joked about catching a pass from Fair (a former USC quarterback).

He then turned the pages to the picture in question and held it up for Corbin to see.

“Hold it towards the camera,” Corbin responded.

“I don’t believe the camera’s offended,” Hutto snapped back. “You are.”

Corbin then asked Hutto if he understood the point Corbin was trying to make, which was that even Hutto was hesitant to show the image in public. Hutto then responded, “It is an illustration of two women engaged in sexuality. If that bothers you, say so.”

Corbin then misspoke his point entirely. “That don’t bother me,” he said, before laughingly correcting himself. “I’m sorry, wait a minute, that does bother me, wait a minute.”

A few moments later, Hutto pointed out that “Fun Home” had received Time Magazine’s 2006 “Book of the Year.” Corbin then noted that Time Magazine had also named Hitler as its “Man of the Year” in 1938.

“Did you know there was a time in history when all of Germany felt Hitler was an acclaimed leader?” He said. “Did that make it so? Did that make it right?”

Senators had spent four hours of debate on the budget amendment as of 7:00 p.m. Wednesday.