SC senators to hold hearing on transgender bill

Posted at 6:15 AM, Apr 13, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina bill limiting transgender people's bathroom choices is up for discussion Wednesday, a week after Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and state business leaders called the proposal unnecessary.

People are expected to pack a Senate hearing on the bill, though the subcommittee is unlikely to take any vote. Its chairman, Sen. Lee Bright, introduced the measure last week, saying he supports a North Carolina law that has led to companies ending expansion plans in the state and conventions going elsewhere.

Bright, who faces three GOP challengers in June, said he's had enough of tolerance if that means "men who claim to be women" going into a bathroom with children.

His proposal, which mimics part of North Carolina's law, would require multistall bathrooms on public property to be designated and used "based on biological sex." It specifically includes student bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms in public schools. It would also bar local governments from requiring businesses to let transgender people use the bathroom of their choice.

How private businesses handle their bathrooms should be up to the owners, not government, he said.

The president of the state Chamber of Commerce, Ted Pitts, said senators need to focus on "real issues" such as the state's crumbling roadways.

"Sen. Bright is trying to create a political crisis that doesn't exist to save his political career," said Pitts, Haley's former chief of staff.

Supporters include the faith-based Palmetto Family Council, which is bringing in attorneys from the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom to testify. They argue Bright's bill and others like it nationwide are about privacy and safety.

"If the right to privacy means anything, it certainly means that women and girls should not be compelled to undress, shower, or use the restroom in the presence of men. This is just common sense," said Alliance attorney Kellie Fiedorek.

But the executive director of Charleston-based We Are Family, which advocates for LGBT issues, said that's ridiculous.

"It is transgender people whose safety is at risk," Melissa Moore said. "Transgender people face incredible discrimination in the workplace, in schools, and in public places. They face threats and physical assaults in public spaces."

She said the bill "perpetuates hateful rhetoric and myths about trans people."

Haley said South Carolinians are generally respectful and kind, and a law is unwanted.

"Businesses in South Carolina have very much shown respect and customers have shown respect back," she told reporters last Thursday. "While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle we've seen is needed in South Carolina or that we see citizens are asking for in South Carolina."

Besides, she said, the bill's doomed.

It's unlikely to make the May 1 crossover deadline for bills to move from one chamber to the other. And House leaders say it won't be taken up in that chamber anyway for the session that ends in June.

"Nothing's going to happen with this bill this year," Haley said.