Haley: S.C. doesn’t need a battle over restrooms

Two protesters hold up signs against passage of legislation in North Carolina, which limits the bathroom options for transgender people, during a rally in Charlotte on March 31. South Carolina State Sen. Lee Bright on Wednesday introduced a bill he says mirrors North Carolina’s, requiring transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, not how they may identify themselves

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley spoke out against the bill that would block local governments from expanding use of gender-designated public restrooms to transgender people, saying it is not needed in South Carolina.

“While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle that we have seen is needed in South Carolina,” Haley said Thursday. “And it’s not something that we see the citizens are asking for in South Carolina.”

The measure, filed by Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, on Wednesday, requires transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, not how they may identify themselves. He has stressed the measure’s importance is in the name of public safety, unrelated to differing bills and laws in other states concerning religious liberty.

Haley said South Carolina’s people are respectful and kind when it comes to acceptance. And there has been no report by people feeling like their freedoms are being violated.

The bill drew additional opposition on social media and also under the Statehouse dome Thursday.

The Twitter account “Bathrooms for Bright” gained traction when Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, took to the Senate floor to say the account — @PeewithLee — was making a mockery out of the state.

“But under ‘Pee with Lee’ Bright’s bill, we’re now going to have the genitalia patrol checking birth certificates at the restroom door,” Kimpson said. “I can’t imagine a more ridiculous bill.”

Kimpson went on to refer to Bright’s proposal as the “not-so-Bright” bill, and as being a form of discrimination that ought to incense the public.

The bill faces a difficult path to becoming law. It has to make it through two panels in the Senate before it hits the floor, and must pass the chamber before the May 1 crossover deadline for proposals to be taken up by the House.

Serious debate usually dies on bills that don’t pass by that deadline because they’re unlikely to pass both chambers by the end of session, which comes during the first week of June.

Bright remained undeterred in his support for passing the measure, despite the looming deadline and the “profane voicemails” he’s received since Wednesday.

“The folks who are always asking for tolerance are very intolerant of the views of others,” Bright said. “This is what I believe. I’m going to support it. I think there’s a silent majority that supports this.”

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said the bill is discriminatory and proof that Bright “continues to be an embarrassment for South Carolina.”

Harrison cited the business backlash in North Carolina, where a similar measure was recently signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. Some company interests have pushed back against the law by threatening to move operations. PayPal, for example, canceled its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte. It cost the state 400 jobs because the law also prevents cities from enacting nondiscrimination policies tied to gender identity.

“Bright must be deaf to the outcry from North Carolinians across the political spectrum and the business community who know discrimination hurts, not helps, our communities,” Harrison said. “This stunt is incredibly shortsighted.”

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-577-7111.