COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A bill that would allow South Carolina employers to give hiring preference to veterans and spouses of disabled veterans has advanced in the Senate.

The bill progressed Wednesday to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

Lisa McGill Sweatman, spokeswoman for the state Retail Association, said businesses want to support veterans by giving them jobs but need assurances they won't be liable for giving them preference.

Retired Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner said the bill would do more than just extend protection to employers. The former director of the state's unemployment agency said it also seeks to honor the service and sacrifice not only of veterans but of their spouses.

"It is due time that our state consider this bill and pass this bill because of the service not only of the disabled veteran but the services of their spouses," said Turner, the former director of the state's unemployment agency.

Turner said the bill acknowledges not only the service of spouses on the home front but also the sacrifices they make every day to support their husbands and wives who have physical and mental disabilities as a result of their service.

"I applaud the effort of this bill to recognize that the spouses too have served in their own capacity and the spouses too deserve an opportunity to get jobs to help maintain the wellbeing of their loved ones," Turner said. "The employers should be protected by law who provide that type of preferential concern for those spouses."

The House unanimously approved the bill last month.