It’s no secret that I am no fan of our governor, Nikki Haley, but I did stand and give her props last week when she said, of Senator Lee Bright’s proposed Bathroom Bill to ban trans people from using a bathroom that coincides with their gender identity:
“I don’t believe it’s necessary. When I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that feel like they’re being violated in terms of freedoms.”
Now, to be fair, Nikki Haley is looking at her political future when she says these things, and she knows the tide on LGBT hatred is turning, slowly, turning, but in light of all these Southern Republicans working to legalize hate, it was still nice to see one — or two, counting Louisiana Governor, and a Democrat of course, John Bel Edwards — stand up for LGBT people in general and trans people in particular.
But even with Haley denouncing the need for such a law, Senator Bright — and how I laugh at that name — is continuing his march into the history books as a giant dumbass. Bright is heading the hearings on this issue and a great many South Carolinians, trans and otherwise, spoke out about the bill:
Grayson, a thirteen year old trans male, sat right in Lee Bright’s face and told his story of having to go to the nurse's bathroom to avoid having to answer questions about his identity:
"All I want is to be able to use the men's restroom with the rest of my non-transgender peers, but this doesn't happen and it won't happen if this bill is passed. The people introducing this bill are victimizing the innocent. When I enter a men's bathroom, I just want to use the facilities, wash my hands and leave. I do not deserve to have my gender identity washed away like a fingerprint on a windowpane. I do not deserve to have the person I am replaced by someone I don't want to be. I do not deserve to be forced to use a restroom where I do not feel safe. We were brought into this world to live, not to be targeted by people who don't know what it's like to be born in a shell that doesn't match your interior spirit."
But Lee Bright will not be deterred because he said he’s had enough of tolerance — yes, he’s had enough of tolerance — if that means "men who claim to be women" going into a bathroom with children.
Bright also sat stone-faced listening to Deb Foreman, whose adult son is transgender, describe how her son has struggled because of others' ignorance:
"He still fears using a public bathroom because of societal hate and discrimination, and this legislation would make it even worse."
She then took on Lee bright personally, saying she had contacted his offices after the legislation was introduced to invite him to meet with LGBT groups in Spartanburg to discuss the issue; Bright never returned her call even though he is her elected official.
"With all due respect, Sen. Bright, you are ignorant to the issues of the LGBT community. There has been no outcry for this type of legislation. It would certainly cause more harm than anything else."
In addition, three high profile mayors — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela and Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams —all attended the meeting, and all agreed that the proposed bill is unnecessary:
"I came here from Florence today to report to the Senate that in the city of Florence, our bathrooms are just fine, they don't require any state supervision or regulation whatsoever." — Stephen Wukela
Summerville resident Ross Scherer, who has a transgender daughter, said the bill's supporters are misinformed and hold misguided beliefs.
"I will not stand by while people put my child in harm's way. I will do everything in my power to see that this bill is not passed."
Bill Nettles, the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, said there were no cases of a transgender person committing battery or assault and battery on a heterosexual person in a bathroom, and yet despite those facts Lee Bright remains committed to the measure:
"I have heard from an overwhelming number of people in the Upstate of South Carolina that have supported the bill. Businesses don't want to be burdened and forced to be told what accommodations they have to make in their restrooms."
What accommodations? Most businesses already have bathrooms, and most trans people have already used those bathrooms, oftentimes with others, and there have been no reports of any problems. But go on, Lee Bright; make a case where there is none.
Luckily, we have state Senator Joel Lourie, also a Democrat dontcha know, who has condemned the bill:
"I think this proposal is pathetic. I think it's mean-spirited. I think it's discriminatory, and on top of all that, economically it can be a disaster for South Carolina. We saw some incredible, brave people step forward today who gave some of the most moving testimony I've heard in my 18 years of public service.'
The testimony resumes today, and if the subcommittee votes in favor of the bill, it will likely go before the full committee sometime next week, though not without a fight from Joel Lourie:
"I will do everything strategically possible to make sure this bill never comes before the full Senate."
And the monetary backlash has begun; despite the fact that the bill hasn’t passed the House and that our governor says we don’t need it, Uphold, an international financial services company with U.S. headquarters in Charleston, has announced it would move its offices to Los Angeles to protest the proposal.
But all that aside, I must say that I am proud of South Carolinians; I am proud of our Democratic representatives, though they are few and far between, and Nikki Haley, for seeing this bill for what it is and denouncing it. And I am doubly proud of the trans South Carolinians who are standing up, and stepping into the spotlight, to condemn this bill for what it is: hate.
And I am hoping that South Carolinians remember this, and remember Lee Bright’s hate speech about trans people, and the LGBT community, when it comes time to reelect him in the fall.
Send Lee Bright home; he has no business representing the people of this state.