SC LGBTQ+ advocates mobilize against more than a dozen bills they say discriminate against their community

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Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:27 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -LGBTQ+ advocates gathered at the South Carolina State House on Thursday to mobilize against a slew of bills that they say discriminate against their community.

Advocates say that these bills target the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth, in every aspect of life.

“Many of these bills have absolutely no underpinning in the law or the Constitution,” Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said. “What they are is about expressing an extremist view that is not aligned with what the majority of folks in South Carolina support, which is treating people with equality, treating people with dignity, and letting people have the freedom to go about their lives.”

Advocates plan to fight more than a dozen pieces of legislation this session.

The bills filed by House and Senate Republicans include ones that would ban gender-altering surgeries for minors in the state.

“What this is about is protecting childhood innocence,” Rep. R.J. May, R-Lexington, said about the legislation. “This is about preventing children from going through life-altering surgeries. As a state, we say that they can’t make a decision on a tattoo, they can’t make a decision on purchasing alcohol, they can’t make a decision on voting, yet we’re going to allow them to have permanent, life-altering surgery.”

Amberlyn Boiter, a transgender woman and President of PLFAG Spartanburg, said bills like this one are written in ignorance.

“They have signaled very clearly that they don’t really care about children,” she said. “They just care about moving trans people out of public square, moving transgender people out of existence in South Carolina. And I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was growing up in South Carolina schools, we ended our pledges of allegiance with liberty and justice for all, and I meant that when I said it.”

The Medical University of South Carolina ended transgender hormonal care late last year.

May, who is also the South Carolina Freedom Caucus Vice Chair, said this was originally done through a budget proviso or a temporary law.

“If we can codify it into permanent law, then we wouldn’t have a need to do a budget proviso,” he said. “But once the budget proviso expires, it would allow these hospitals to continue with providing treatment to minors, to adolescents.”

Another bill would criminalize any drag shows that are not for adults only. It would classify any business allowing minors to view a drag show as committing an offense akin to “disseminating harmful materials to minors.”

“What we see is a small group of legislators motivated by an extreme agenda who are attempting to target and weaponize their power to create bills to go after any entity in the state that is inclusive and welcoming and affirming to LGBTQ people,” Beach-Ferrara said.

When asked about these criticisms, May said this type of activity is not suitable for children.

“If you’d like to go to a drag show as an adult that’s your prerogative, it’s not my cup of tea, but children should not attend drag shows,” he said. “Children should not attend any sort of adult entertainment where folks have sexualized agendas. That’s just beyond the pale.”

The bills LGBTQ+ advocates are opposing also include ones that would restrict access to LGBTQ-related books and ban the teaching of critical race theory.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, have introduced what advocates call an inclusive non-discrimination bill in response to these efforts which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Delivering lasting change for the LGBTQ+ community is going to take a lot of hard work and organizing, Cobb-Hunter said.

“Break the silence,” she said. “Stop allowing this vocal minority to rule the day up here. Speak. Talk to your legislator. Tell him or her what you think. That’s why we’re here.”

Cobb-Hunter acknowledged that due to a Republican supermajority in the House, some of these bills have a strong chance of passing.

Here is a list of the other bills that LGBTQ+ advocates are fighting against:

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