Crime & Courts

Richland sheriff opposes so-called bathroom bill, calls it unenforceable

FILE PHOTO: Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott
FILE PHOTO: Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott Tdominick@thestate.com

In a letter to the chairman of the Senate subcommittee set to debate S-1203 on Wednesday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott called the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom of their birth gender, unnecessary and potentially a “huge burden” on already stretched local law enforcement.

Given the bill’s “potential impact on my Department, I felt compelled to communicate with you,” Lott said in apologizing for not being at the hearing in person because of department business.

Officers would have to determine the sex of every person entering a restroom in South Carolina, Lott said. DNA testing is cost prohibitive, and “asking deputies to check a person’s genitalia invades the subject’s dignity and privacy,” he said. In addition, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department could be exposed to costly litigation, he said.

And besides, the bill is unnecessary, he wrote. In his 41 years in law enforcement in the state, “I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom. This is a non-issue,’ he said.

Given the other issues facing the state like criminal domestic violence and gang activity, “I cannot endorse a bill which is unnecessary and unenforceable,” he said.

Lott is running for re-election this year, seeking his 6th term. James Flowers, a former SLED senior special agent who was once a Gamecock defensive lineman, announced in November, 2015, that he will challenge Lott for the post.

The hearing Wednesday is expected to attract a large crowd of opponents and supporters of the legislation. Rallies are planned after the hearing on the State House grounds.

Bill sponsor Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) said he hopes for quick action on the bill so that it can go to the Senate floor next week.

But opposition is building.

The state’s top Republican, Gov. Nikki Haley, called the bill unnecessary. State Sen. Joel Lourie, a Richland Democrat who will join Bright in presiding over the hearing Wednesday, said, “with all the blood in my veins and all the oxygen in my body” he would block the proposal.

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