A proposal to ban transgender people from choosing the bathroom that they use is headed to a S.C. Senate committee vote after a panel hearing from supporters and opponents wrapped up its second day of hearings Thursday.
However, a Democratic member of the Senate General Committee promised to block the proposal.
"This bill will not pass the South Carolina General Assembly this year," state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said after hearing testimony that included personal stories from transgender men and women and religious opponents and supporters of the proposal.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has said the proposal, sponsored by state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, is not needed.
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In addition, House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said it is unlikely that that GOP-controlled body will have time to deal with the proposal this year.
"The House Republican Caucus has a lot of issues that we are trying to address by the end of session,” Bannister said Thursday.
Bills that do not pass by the June end of the session will die. To be considered next year, the proposal would have to be reintroduced.
More supporters spoke out Thursday than in Wednesday’s hearing, when opponents turned out in droves.
Bright’s proposal would require that bathrooms, showers and changing rooms at government-run parks, museums and schools be designated for use and used based on an individual’s biological sex at birth, as listed on their birth certificate. The bill would apply only to bathrooms and changing rooms used by more than a person at a time.
Robert Boone, a pastor in Aiken County, said the proposal relates to moral decency.
"How can we conscientiously enforce laws dealing with pornography when we replace the printed page that you find in a magazine with flesh in the restroom?" Boone asked.
Boone recounted his own experience of accidentally walking into a women’s restroom, saying he was “embarrassed to death.”
Oran Smith of the Palmetto Family Council said his conservative advocacy group is concerned about safety and privacy.
Smith said his group is concerned that men could be in locker-room showers with young girls. "We are looking for a way to protect against that," he said, adding Bright’s proposal seems to do that.
August Huckabee, who lives in Colorado, said the proposal is a women’s rights issue.
"The transgender movement is, in fact, extremely disrespectful to women and to the history of women’s rights by claiming to be women," Huckabee said.
For centuries, women have fought for equality, including the right to vote and wage equality, Huckabee said. "Feminists themselves should be in an uproar that a confused boy should decide that all it takes to become a woman is a mental fabrication that stems from a confusion of identity."
But Sen. Lourie said the women’s rights organizations that he has spoken with staunchly oppose the proposal.
Opponents also spoke out against the proposal Thursday.
Attorney Malissa Burnette, who represents S.C. Equality, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, said the proposal will "hurt and divide our citizens."
She said the argument that the bill will protect children from men who dress up like women “perpetuates myths about transgender people.”
Burnette said she has practiced law for 39 years, representing hundreds of men, women and children in cases involving sexual harassment and sexual assault. “Not one of the male perpetrators has ever been dressed like a woman, nor has any of the perpetrators been a transgender person,” she said.
Tim Bupp, pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia, also opposed the proposal, addressing the argument that, absent a ban, predators will take advantage of people in bathrooms.
"There are predators (in) every aspect of humanity," Bupp said, adding some pastors and politicians are "the most despicable predators of all."
But, Bupp added, he would not refuse pastors or politicians "their basic right to use public facilities."
The Senate’s full General Committee next will take up the proposal. When that committee — chaired by state Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson — will take up the bill has not yet been announced.
If that panel — of 10 Republicans and seven Democrats — passes the proposal, state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said he will use procedural tactics to ensure it does not pass the full Senate this year.
Senators generally can ensure a bill does not pass by adding a “minority report.” A single senator also can filibuster a proposal.