S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that a bill that would limit what bathrooms transgender people can choose is unnecessary because her office has received no complaints about the issue and South Carolinians already are respectful to people from different backgrounds.
“I don’t believe it’s necessary,” she told reporters. “There’s not one instance that I’m aware of.
“When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that are being violated in terms of freedoms,” she said. “Like it or not, South Carolina is doing really well when it comes to respect and when it comes to kindness and when it comes to acceptance. For people to imply it’s not, I beg to differ.”
The Lexington Republican cited the peaceful reaction after shootings in North Charleston and Charleston last year that involved white gunmen killing unarmed African-Americans.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Even though the bill sponsored by state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, deals with rights of people based on their gender identity, Haley mentioned South Carolina passing a law in 1999 that allows business owners to exercise their religious rights several times during her news conference.
Asked to explain an apparent contradiction, the governor said religious-freedom advocates see people using the bathroom opposite from their birth gender as a violation of their rights.
“They very much see this as something that goes against their religious beliefs,” she said.
Bright said his proposal is “totally different from a religious-freedom bill.”
“I think it’s a public-safety issue,” Bright said referring to concerns that male predators are allowed to enter women’s restrooms without a state law.
Transgender advocates have said those fears are a myth, and that transgender men and women use public restrooms everyday with no problems or disruptions.
Several states have passed or are considering anti-gay laws, which has led to some outcry by businesses.
Most notable are North Carolina, which passed HB2 banning local laws protecting employment and housing rights based on sexual orientation and identity, and Mississippi, which passed a law allowing businesses to refuse service to customers based on the owners’ religious beliefs.
“While other states are having this battle, this is not a battle that we’ve seen is needed in South Carolina,” Haley said. “And it’s not something that we see that citizens are asking for in South Carolina.”
Haley questioned whether Bright’s proposal, introduced Wednesday, would win passage in the Senate before the May 1 deadline for a bill to crossover to the S.C. House.
“Nothing is going to happen with the bill this year,” she said.
Bright, whose bill got three new co-sponsors, said meeting the crossover deadline will be difficult, but he expects support for his bill to grow. The N.C. Legislature passed its anti-gay bill in less than a day last month during a special session.