PHOTOS: Overwhelming turnout in opposition to South Carolina's discriminatory bill

Today, South Carolina's state senate heard an overwhelming opposition to South Carolina Senate Bill 1203. This discriminatory bill would  limit the rights of South Carolina's transgender community by preventing municipalities and schools from establishing protections that would allow transgender individuals from using sex-designated bathrooms. South Carolina LGBT people and allies as well as former and current government officials spoke out against the bill today.

Allies and protestors of the bill held a rally outside the state house, while people gathered inside to testify against S1203. Disriminatory bills such as these have already attracted a great deal of attention around the country, especially in places such as Mississippi,Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Today, GLAAD's Vice President of Programs, Zeke Stokes, a South Carolina native, attended the state senate hearing of S1203, where people lined up to witness this important moment in South Carolina's history.

"I think those of us who support equality and acceptance want to make sure that we're able to nip this now than have another North Carolina on our hands where the legislature rammed this through in a very quick period of time and the governor signed it and there really was no time for reaction or to build support against it. So that's why GLAAD is here on the ground with our partners in South Carolina Equality and others to make sure that we cans top this bill in its tracks," Stokes told WIS-TV last night in a televised interview.

Members of the LGBT community in South Carolina attended the event to share their stories, including Blair Durkee (below), a trans woman attending Clemson as a graduate student, and Chase Glenn, a transgender man from Charleston, South Carolina. Glenn testified against S1203, pointing out that this unenforceable bill will invite violence towards LGBT people. He stated, "I have been using public men's restrooms for over a year - and I have never had one issue...This law - which is unenforceable - protects no one. All this serves to do is draw attention to the transgender community. Transgender people, like me, who simply want to use the bathroom will be singled out, outed as transgender, and harassed."

South Carolina's Richland County Sheriff, Leon Lott, also took a stand against the bill, calling it both "unnecessary" and "unenforceable." Although he wasn't able to attend the subcommittee hearing, he sent a letter to Senator Kevin Bryant, voicing his strong opposition to the passabe of S1203:

Dear Senator Bryant:

As Sheriff of Richland County, I am writing to you today to oppose the passage of S. 1203. First and foremost, this bill is unnecessary. In the 41 years I have been in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom. This is a  non-issue.

Additionally, if this bill passes, it would put a huge burden on an already overloaded law enforcement team. As I understand the bill, to be enforced, a law enforcement officer would have to determine the sex of every person entering a restroom in our state. Obviously, DNA testing is cost-prohibitive. Asking my deputy sheriffs to check a person's genetalia invades the subject's dignity and privacy. There are also due process issues and Fourth Amendemnt issues. Such enforcement efforts could also expose my Department to costly litigation. 

Given the very real law enforcement challenges this state faces, like criminal domestic violence - South Carolina ranks No. 1 for deadly violence against women - and gang activity, I cannot endorse a bill which is unnecessary and unenforceable. 

I'm sorry that I am unable to attend the subcommittee hearing tomorrow because of pressing Department businesss, but I do ask that the subcommittee and committee take my opinion into consideration. It is rare that I weigh in on matters at the Statehouse, but given this S. 1203's potential impact on my department, I felt compelled to communicate with you.

Sincerely,

Leon Lott

Sheriff

Families and current - as well as former - state and municipal official also joined Sheriff Lott in standing against this discriminatory bill today.  The parents of a nine-year-old South Carolina transgender girl, as well as Former State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum testified against the bill.

"I am here, as South Carolina's former State State Superintendent of Education, to speak in opposition to S. 1203, a bill that bans transgender people from accessing restrooms and other facilities consistent with their identity and blocks local governments from protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in a wide variety of settings," said Tenenbaum. "America will not tolerate discrimination against the LGBT community nor will it put transgender people in danger without making the states that passed these laws pay economically."

 

Those considering discriminatory bills should keep in mind that the overwhelming opposition to discrimination against LGBT people is not unique to South Carolina's S1203. LGBT people and allies have aleady united to stand up to discrimination in states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Americans all over the country are speaking out about the dangerous consequences of anti-LGBT bills, not only for members of the LGBT community, but for all citizens of states adopting disciminatory laws. 

GLAAD has been speaking out against discriminatory laws in several states, and has released "Debunking the 'Bathroom Bill' Myth," a valuable resource for journalists and everyday people to understand the importance and impact of nondiscrimination bills, and ways to debunk falsehoods that are often raised in opposition to such bills. GLAAD is calling on media both in South Carolina and nationally, to ask media to hold promoters of discriminatory bills accountable for false claims they have made.