Gov. Nikki Haley says a new bill that would block local governments from requiring transgender choice in public restrooms is not needed in South Carolina.
Haley answered questions Thursday about bill introduced in the state Senate a day earlier. The measure filed by Spartanburg Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, would require transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates. It would also bar cities from requiring restrooms to be based on gender identity. A hearing is scheduled on the bill next week.
But the governor considers the bill a waste of time. “I don’t believe it’s necessary,” she said during an unrelated press conference Thursday. “I think if you look at everything we’ve had happen, there’s not one instance I’m aware of. I look at South Carolina and we are… a state where we don’t have to mandate respect and kindness.”
She cited the 1999 Religious Freedom Act, which requires the state to give “compelling justification” before “burdening” an individual’s religious rights. However, that law does not explicitly mention gender issues and gives vague definitions on what “burdens” a resident or business.
Bright pushed for the ban in the name of public safety, saying he is worried about potential sex offenders claiming protected status as transgenders. He said it’s also meant to show solidarity with North Carolina, which has been threatened with boycotts over its version of the law.
“I want to stand with our neighbors to the north, who are showing some common decency and common sense,” Bright said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The bill does face a difficult path forward in the Senate, where it must get a public hearing and approval by a committee before the end of the month. It also must pass the Senate by May 1 to have a realistic chance of becoming law this session. It’s also not apparent if senators would have a two-thirds vote to override a veto, either.