Three GOP senators on the Senate General Committee say they oppose the transgender bathroom bill and a fourth said he is torn, a number which likely means the bill is dead for the year.
Sen. Greg Gregory of Lancaster, Sen. Ray Cleary of Murrell’s Inlet and Sen. Paul Campbell of Goose Creek told The Greenville News Tuesday they are opposed to the bill.
Sen. Lee Bright, the bill’s sponsor, said he needs nine of the 10 GOP members of the 17-member committee to approve it in order for it to advance to the floor. Democrats oppose the bill. If three GOP members oppose it and a fourth is on the fence, the bill cannot come out of committee.
“I don’t think the bill is going anywhere,” Sen. Joel Lourie, a Columbia Democrat and one of the bill’s main opponents, told The News. “I can tell you it’s dead.”
Cleary said he hasn’t done much research on the bill.
"I just know it’s not coming out of committee and it can’t make the crossover deadline," he said.
The bill would bar people from using public bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their biological sex and prevent local governments from passing legislation allowing such use.
The legislation is similar to a recently enacted North Carolina law that has spawned controversy, protests and a move to repeal the law. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order several weeks ago addressing some provisions in the law though leaving unchanged the most talked about part that requires people to use bathrooms of their sex at birth.
“I haven’t been to any of the meetings to understand why we would be doing it,” Cleary said. “I know major industry opposes it. I haven’t taken a position but if it came out I would vote no.”
Gregory said North Carolina is “wrapped around the axle on this matter.”
“South Carolina doesn’t need to make the mistakes they made,” he said. “To me, it’s a solution looking for a problem.”
Campbell said Tuesday that he “wants to keep the government out of the bathrooms.”
“I don’t think the government has a place in my bathroom,” he said. “Let the people decide that.”
Sen. Ronnie Cromer, a Newberry County Republican and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he sees both sides of the matter.
“I don’t want to hurt any prospective business clients from coming into South Carolina,” he said. “But there are a lot of people who are passionate about allowing someone of the opposite sex come in, especially women. And I’m also concerned about the safety of some of those people. I’m just completely torn on it right now.”
Lourie took to the floor Tuesday to chastise Bright for privately polling GOP members of the committee after reading about his efforts in The News.
He said Senate rules require all members of a panel being polled to be present, notified and polled.
“There has not been a member of my caucus that has been polled,” he said. “You know and I know there is no bathroom bill. If you want to have a hearing, let’s have a hearing tomorrow and vote it up or down. The people of this state deserve that this vote not be taken in private, sir.”
Bright said every member of the committee would be allowed to sign the poll sheet. He said there can be a hearing if a majority of members want a hearing but he said the chairman of the committee, Sen. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, who also is a co-sponsor of the bill, recommended polling members.
“I think there is a public outcry now that there is a scream from North Carolina about how devastating it’s going to be,” he responded from the podium. “Sure they have lost a couple of concerts. But as far as businesses leaving, we have a tireless minority when it comes to this that makes a lot of noise. But there is a majority of people out there that don’t think it’s OK for men to go into little girl’s restrooms.”
Bright has acknowledged that passage of the bill is an uphill climb. Any bills not passed over to the other chamber by the end of this week face a higher voting threshold to be taken up in the other chamber. Bills that do not pass this year die because it is the end of a two-year session.
Opponents of the bill, including transgender adults and youth, said if passed the bill could trigger further harassment and violence against transgender people and was unnecessary. Three mayors spoke against the bill as well as former State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, who warned it could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding because it violated federal law.
Proponents of the bill said it was needed to protect children and adult females from people posing as transgender females.
Gov. Nikki Haley has said the bill is unnecessary.