Two Senate Democrats vow to kill controversial transgender bathroom bill

The South Carolina Statehouse

COLUMBIA — Two Democratic state senators have vowed to kill a controversial bill that would block local governments from expanding the use of gender-designated public restrooms to transgender people.

The promise came after veteran lawmaker Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, learned that sponsor Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, was counting if he had the needed votes to send the “Bathroom Bill” to the Senate floor.

The practice is referred to as “polling,” and it allows senators to bypass the process for bills that are usually not controversial having to run through subcommittee meetings.

Lourie took to the floor to express his frustration over Bright’s efforts. People watching the Legislature see it as everything from unnecessary to ridiculous, Lourie said.

“I’m proud that our state has taken a pretty good stance against discrimination and intolerance,” he said Tuesday. “Two hearings, a poll and a flush. And that is the bathroom debate of 2016 in South Carolina.”

The proposed law requires transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, not how they may identify themselves. It has already received resounding opposition from many lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley.

Lourie and Sen. Marlon Kimpson of Charleston said they would place procedural holds on the effort, hoping to stall the bill’s movement with just five weeks remaining until the end of session.

“We will essentially kill the bill for the year,” Kimpson said. “It is not good for South Carolina to consume the state’s resources discussing this legislation. We’ve already spent far too much time on it when there are many more pressing issues we are facing as a state.”

Bright, however, remained undeterred, stressing the need to advance the bill.

“It’s very dangerous,” Bright said. “It all comes down to public safety and privacy. To say that we have to sacrifice the public safety and privacy of 99 percent of the people because .03 percent are confused about their gender identity, to me doesn’t seem fair.”

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.