State Senator Vows To Block South Carolina Transgender Bathroom Bill

Photo of the symbols on the door of a transgender accessible bathroom.
Photo of the symbols on the door of a transgender accessible bathroom.

Columbia, SC (WJBF) – South Carolina state senators will begin the debate Wednesday morning on a bill similar to North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law. A Senate subcommittee will hear public comment on the bill at 10:30 Wednesday morning at the Statehouse.

The bill would prevent cities and counties from passing local ordinances that would allow transgender people to use the restrooms of the gender they identify as.

State Senator Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) introduced the bill and says, “We’ve got to do what’s right for our citizens, and I think public safety is definitely in the purview of government. I don’t think someone who identifies himself as a male should be allowed in a women’s bathroom.”

He’ll be chairing the subcommittee meeting on the bill.

The bill is similar to HB2, which North Carolina passed recently in response to a local Charlotte ordinance. The backlash in North Carolina has seen Bruce Springsteen cancel a concert in Greensboro, PayPal cancel plans to bring 400 jobs to the state, and the NBA consider not playing the 2017 All-Star game in Charlotte.

State Senator Joel Lourie (D-Columbia) is also on the subcommittee that will take public comments on the bill. “I think it’s mean-spirited. I think it’s discriminatory. I think economically it could be a disaster for our state, and look no further than our neighbors in North Carolina and what’s happened,” he says.

He says he’s never been contacted by anyone saying there’s a problem with transgender people causing problems in bathrooms, and there are plenty of laws already in place to cover those rare times when someone of one gender goes into a bathroom of the other.

“I feel as strong about this as anything, in terms of my opposition, and will use every procedural move available to ensure that this bill never comes for a vote before the full Senate, if it ever gets that far,” he says. The rules of the Senate allow one senator to block a bill he doesn’t like, requiring other senators to bypass him if necessary. A senator can also then filibuster a bill to block a bill’s passage.

The “bathroom bill” is also facing a major time constraint. It will have its first subcommittee hearing on April 13th, and is expected to come up in full committee within a week or two. But the legislature has a “crossover deadline” of May 1. A bill that hasn’t passed in either the Senate or House by then doesn’t have a realistic chance of becoming law. It would require a two-thirds vote to even bring up the bill after that.

Even if it were to pass the South Carolina Senate and South Carolina House of Representatives in time, Governor Nikki Haley would likely veto it. She says the bill is not needed.

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