South Carolina seems unsure of itself these days when it comes to its opinion on LGBT-related matters. In some ways, the ultra-religious state appears to be having a change of heart when it concerns the gay community. But on the other hand, the days of tolerance are still a long way off, that is if a dating violence bill being heard by the Senate is any indication.
Of course, this sort of dichotomy is nothing new when it comes to Southern politics. Just look at Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves but simultaneously loved them very much, and often.
In North Charleston, Mayor Keith Summey has agreed to grand marshal the city's first gay pride parade. Although he made it clear he did not agree with the "lifestyle," the mayor at least acknowledged the fact that LGBTs are an equal part of the community. Consider that a victory for tolerance, if you like.
Then there's this matter: the Senate Education Committee is set to move on a bill that would work to prevent violence between school-aged dating partners. But there's a catch: the educational and disciplinary policies mandated by the bill only apply to heterosexual couples. The matter of same-sex dating will be ignored.
According to Rock Hill's The Herald, Chester Rep. Greg Delleney amended the original dating violence bill so that only heterosexual relationships would be discussed and targeted by school districts. His fear: Students in middle and high school might learn about homosexuality as a result of the schools' educational efforts. In essence, Delleney's amendment suggests that it's okay to abuse your date as long as you share the same set of chromosomes.
Rep. Joan Brady, R-Richland, introduced the dating violence bill, which ultimately passed out of the House. According to The State newspaper, Brady's intent was "to raise awareness and protect young people from violence that can occur in dating situations." In the same article, it was noted that "in 2009, one in six S.C. high school students reported being hit or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend."
Brady also told The State that she thought the bill was "hijacked," but that it still had its merits. She said, "[T]he protection it's going to be able to provide and the awareness it will bring to the problem [of teen dating violence] overrides these other concerns."
As you can see, this isn't an issue about sexual morality, at least it wasn't supposed to be. As Brady intended, the original bill was designed to help prevent dating violence among middle- and high-schoolers before Delleney turned it into his own personal anti-gay agenda. Of course, if you're going to be a political bigot, South Carolina is the place to do it. Or at least, that's the message.
Perhaps what Delleney needs to do — that is if he honestly feels that homosexuality is a such huge threat to South Carolina — is introduce his own bill, perhaps one that says that members of the LGBT community should not be allowed to be educated in public schools or one that says gays should only have a two-thirds vote. If Delleney had any guts, he'd really stick out his neck for everyone to see. Instead, all he has done is taken a well-meaning piece of legislation and twisted it into a vile piece of hate speech.
Regardless of your individual beliefs about homosexuality, no person with a shred of decency would think that a group of people should be left to the wolves because of their sexual orientation. But that is exactly what this bill does. It states that dating violence is a problem in South Carolina among our young people, and admits that this is an evil while simultaneously admitting that only a portion of the population should be saved from that evil. Then again, Delleney might argue that the evil he is fighting is homosexuality itself. Hopefully, the State's senators have more sense than the House and Delleney.
The sad truth is that this anti-gay amendment probably won't cost Delleney his career or the careers of the other folks that voted or will vote for it. Not in South Carolina. And that is where the real moral issue lies.