South Carolina

SC senator introduces transgender restroom bill modeled on NC law

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, has introduced legislation that would prohibit transgender bathroom access in South Carolina.
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, has introduced legislation that would prohibit transgender bathroom access in South Carolina. The (Columbia) State

A controversial law blocking LGBT rights passed by the North Carolina legislature last month has caused a backlash from gay rights activists and the nation’s business community.

It also may have served as inspiration for one South Carolina senator.

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, has introduced legislation modeled on North Carolina’s controversial law prohibiting local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances.

If the South Carolina Legislature approves S.1203, filed Wednesday, local governments in South Carolina, like their North Carolina counterparts, will not be able to pass ordinances allowing transgender individuals to use the public restroom that aligns with their gender identity.

Bright says how private businesses handle their bathrooms should be up to the owners, not government. He knows of no city in South Carolina where that’s an issue, but he supports a controversial North Carolina law that’s drawn a backlash nationwide.

Bright’s bill would not only stop cities and counties in South Carolina from enacting nondiscrimination legislation – similar to a Charlotte ordinance struck down by the North Carolina legislature in a special-called session last month – it also would require multiple-use bathrooms in all S.C. public buildings be “designated for and only used by a person based on his biological sex.”

The bill also prohibits local school boards from allowing transgender students to use restrooms for the gender they identify as. A similar portion of the North Carolina law has raised concerns it could cost North Carolina schools federal funding, as regulators have called such rules sex discrimination based on Title IX, the federal law mandating equal treatment of the genders in public schools that receive federal funding.

Several local governments in South Carolina have enacted nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people’s access to public accommodations. Advocates for Charlotte’s ordinance have cited similar legislation in Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Folly Beach and Richland County that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

S.C. gay and transgender advocates are concerned that Bright’s bill could open the door for restrictive laws in South Carolina and shoot down local laws protecting their rights.

“This is our worst fear,” said Chase Glenn, chair of the transgender committee for gay and transgender rights group S.C. Equality.

The bill would create an unsafe environment for transgender men and women by outing them because they would have to use the bathroom based on the gender listed on their birth certificate, Glenn said.

“Trans men and women are using public restrooms and people don’t even know it,” the Charleston-area resident said. “This is playing into the myth of the bathroom predator. This myth has been debunked.”

The Associated Press and The (Columbia) State newspaper contributed.

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome

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