A small committee room at South Carolina’s Capitol complex was at capacity Wednesday during public testimony for a proposed bill that would limit transgender use of public restrooms.
Members of a state Senate panel heard 90 minutes of testimony from supporters and opponents of a bill that would effectively overrule any local government laws letting transgender individuals use the restroom with which they identify. The bill was introduced by State Sen, Lee Bright last week as a South Carolina version of a similar North Carolina law that has gotten national attention.
The majority of speakers were against the bill, including at least five individuals who identified as transgender. “This law, which is unenforceable, protects no one,” said Charleston native Chase Glenn, who identifies as female. “All is does is it serves to draw attention to the transgender community and people like me who have been using public restrooms for years. And it will incite violence against them.”
Democratic-leaning mayors from Columbia, Florence and Greenwood also spoke against the bill and cautioned against interference in “home rule” and the potential economic boycotts that could follow. “I have had complaints when a bathroom in a park was not clean or not tidy, but I have never had a complaint about any access to a bathroom,” Greenwood Mayor Wellborn Adams said. “If there’s a problem with a bathroom facility in Greenwood, I feel confident that I can handle it.”
Under the legislation, municipal and county governments could not require public restrooms be open to a person regardless of their biological sex. It makes exceptions for parents and guardians helping their children and for those responding to a medical emergency. It also forbids local governments from passing local laws that state otherwise.
Speakers in favor of the bill cited examples in other states where courts had allowed policies that require those who do not wish to use their birth sex restrooms to instead use a single unisex stall. “Every South Carolina student deserves privacy and protection in schools,” said attorney Matt Sharp of the Alliance Defending Freedom. “(This bill) protects the privacy of all students while offering accommodations for any student who doesn’t feel comfortable using the restroom of their biological sex.”
Bright said he sponsored the bill because he is worried about pedophiles or sex offenders falsely claiming to be transgender so they can access restrooms of the opposite sex. “I think grown adult men who would use this as a protection and violate young ladies in the restroom would be a problem with me,”
he told one speaker who was against his legislation.
Senators will hold another hearing after Thursday’s session before deciding whether or not to advance the bill.
The legislation faces tall odds of becoming law this year. It must overcome stalling tactics and debate by opponents to pass the full Senate before May 1 to beat a required crossover deadline. If it does clear the Senate, House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister has said he will not bring it up in the lower chamber. Gov. Nikki Haley has also signaled her opposition to the bill and called it “unnecessary,” meaning a veto could happen if it reaches her desk.