Politics & Government

LGBT activists call SC a ‘high priority,’ oppose bathroom bill

The Trans Student Alliance at USC held a rally and press conference at the State House to protest the S. 1203 bill that would ban transgender people from choosing the bathroom they use. April 13, 2016
The Trans Student Alliance at USC held a rally and press conference at the State House to protest the S. 1203 bill that would ban transgender people from choosing the bathroom they use. April 13, 2016 The State/File

LGBT activists have marked South Carolina as a “high priority” for legislative action in 2018, partly because of a bill that would restrict access to public bathrooms.

The gay rights group Human Rights Campaign says South Carolina is a “high priority to achieve basic equality” in its 2018 report card on state legislatures.

The group highlights a “bathroom bill” introduced last year by state Reps. Steven Long and Josiah Magnuson, both Spartanburg Republicans.

Similar to the North Carolina law that became a lightning rod of controversy in 2015, the S.C. proposal, H. 3012, would restrict any local government from requiring a private business or club “allow a person to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility regardless of the person’s biological sex.”

The bill’s North Carolina cousin, dubbed HB2, overturned a local ordinance in Charlotte that required businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender that they identified with. HB2’s passage led to protests, and caused businesses and sporting events to pull out of the Tar Heel State. In response, the act was repealed last year.

South Carolina’s bathroom bill, introduced last year, was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it sat for all of the Legislature’s 2017 session.

A similar proposal, by former state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, also failed to advance in the State House in 2016. Aware of the backlash north of the border, other state leaders – including then-Gov. Nikki Haley, R-Lexington – responded to Bright’s proposal by saying the measure wasn’t necessary in South Carolina.

The Palmetto State is not the Human Rights Campaign’s highest priority.

South Carolina is one of 27 states where legislative action is listed as a “high priority.” Human Rights Campaign bases that priority ranking on existing laws that the group disapproves of, including a still-on-the-books – albeit unconstitutional – anti-sodomy law, restrictions on LGBT information in schools and the lack of a state hate crime law.

There are things about South Carolina the group likes, too. For example, the Human Rights Campaign singles out several bills in the Legislature that would create hate crime protections that cover sexual orientation.

Beaufort lawmaker, former astronaut honored with Wilkins Award

The Riley Institute at Furman University honored a Beaufort lawmaker and a former astronaut with its annual David H. Wilkins Awards on Tuesday.

Columbia native and C.A. Johnson High School graduate Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. received the Wilkins Award for Excellence in Civic Leadership.

Bolden was an astronaut and aviator until he retired from the Marine Corps in 2003. Later, under President Obama, he was the 12th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

State Rep. Weston Newton, R-Beaufort, was presented with the Wilkins Award for Excellence in Legislative Leadership.

Newton, a three-term representative who chairs the House Oversight Committee and also is on its Judiciary Committee, was recognized for “working across the aisle on legislation that improves the lives of South Carolinians.”

The awards were presented at a dinner at the Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia.

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