Of all the legislative priorities which deserve attention in our state, a bill safeguarding bathrooms from transgender citizens should not be high on the list. Still, a few weeks ago the Upstate's Lee Bright filed a bill seeking to add South Carolina to the list of states enshrining trans discrimination in our laws. That such a bill would warrant serious consideration at all in the General Assembly is a sad commentary on the extent that our elected representatives engage in political grandstanding.
South Carolina would be well-served by legislation which funds our roads. Alternatively, our state would be better served by legislation that assures more than minimally adequate education for all, particularly in the impoverished areas of the state. In light of recent disclosures and high-profile investigations, our state would certainly be well-served by stronger ethics laws which make the financial dealings of our elected representatives transparent to the public. But the state does not need a transgender law mimicking North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill. Bright's recently filed legislation allegedly addresses concerns that male predators are currently allowed to enter women's restrooms without a state law. This argument is illogical on several levels.
North Carolina's law and the bill filed by Sen. Bright presumes that male predators who are intent on sexually assaulting women in the ladies restroom refrain from doing so simply because there is a law prohibiting them from entering said restroom. This irrational logic then presupposes that a male predator dressed as a woman would be deterred from sexaully assaulting a woman because there is a law prohibiting them from entering a restroom. This is pure fiction. To make matters worse, there is no anecdotal evidence, particularly in our state, to suggest that transgender individuals are more likely to sexually assault someone because they have legal access to the same restroom.
Rather than making North Carolina's citizens any safer, their recently passed discriminatory law has already resulted in the loss of jobs. PayPal recently announced that it was changing plans to build a facility in North Carolina because of this discriminatory legislation. Why South Carolina would want to unnecessarily follow the same backwards path forged by the Tar Heel state is beyond reason.
The real reason why a legislator such as Sen. Bright would propose such legislation is not because of any realistic public-safety threat from a sexual predator posing as a member of the opposite sex, but rather to appeal to a similarly narrow-minded base by proving how conservative of a lawmaker he is. Laws such as the Religious Freedom Bill recently passed in Mississippi and North Carolina's anti-transgender bill are delayed knee-jerk reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. Referring to the court's decision as "an erosion of morality in the country," Bright seeks to establish his religious bona fides by championing legislation the state does not need and exposes the state to business boycotts and equal rights lawsuits.
Gov. Nikki Haley deserves kudos for recently calling out Sen. Bright on this bill, and for continuing the common-sense approach she has exhibited towards the end of her gubernatorial term. It is a shame that more legislators around the state have not had the same epiphany as Gov. Haley, regardless of her motivation.
Legislative observers have stated that Bright's bill has a very low chance of being passed before the May 1 deadline in the General Assembly, but nothing at this point would be surprising. South Carolina has an amazing knack for being able to quickly pass legislation which panders to the conservative base as opposed to legislation which actually benefits its citizens.
North Carolina is already feeling the consequences of enacting a similarly ill-conceived law. Hopefully, our legislators in Columbia will see that South Carolina does not have to follow the same path.