SC transgender bill sparks controversy in the Upstate

People all across the Upstate are weighing-in on a controversial new bill. It would require everyone to use the public bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.

We told you this week how Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg introduced the legislation. It would also prevent cities from enacting non-discrimination ordinances, similar to the bill that passed last week in North Carolina.

The bill could also have an impact on the state’s economy.

So we checked in with business groups and political activists to find out whether it has enough support to pass.

What for some is a clear-cut choice, which bathroom to use, for others, like Ivy Gibson-Hill, is a much more complicated decision

“I get told that I’m in the wrong one regardless of which one I’m in on a regular basis. It’s really frustrating, at times it can be embarrassing,” Gibson-Hill said.

That’s why this transgender from Piedmont looks for neutral bathrooms.

But if Senator Lee Bright has his way, Gibson-Hill would have to use the women’s public bathrooms in South Carolina because Gibson-Hill was born a girl.

“We’ve got to do what’s right for our citizens and I think public safety is definitely in the purview of government,” said Senator Bright.

Gibson-Hill agrees, safety is an issue. But Gibson-Hill says it’s transgender people who are more likely to get hurt.

“There’s not been one single reported case of a trans person engaging in sexual misconduct in a bathroom…. That’s fear driven by people like Sen. Bright and the way they are framing this conversation, but there’s absolutely no evidence to back that up.”

When it comes to safety in bathrooms. Bright acknowledges there have been no incidences in South Carolina.

We found far more examples nationwide of transgenders getting attacked or harassed in bathrooms. A National Transgender Discrimination Survey found “roughly 70% of trans people have reported being denied entrance, assaulted or harassed while trying to use a restroom.”

And then there’s the economics. A similar law that just passed in North Carolina has sparked companies like Paypal to stop expansion plans that would have brought-in hundreds of jobs.

7News reached out to the Chamber of Commerce in several cities throughout the Upstate. No one would grant an on-camera interview but Carlos Phillips, the President of the Greenville Chamber gave us this statement:

“The Greenville Chamber supports policies that promote economic inclusion, growth, and competitiveness, and this bill filed in the South Carolina Senate accomplishes none of those objectives. This legislation simply opens a contentious debate on a problem we do not have here in our state. We look forward to focusing on measures that will accelerate paths to economic prosperity for all South Carolinians, including increased education attainment at all levels, better roads and access to jobs.”

Senator Kevin Bryant from Anderson disagrees. He chairs the committee overseeing the bill, and supports it because it allows businesses to make their own choice.

“The business community really should welcome this because it prevents governments from imposing unwanted regulations on them,” said Bryant.

But individuals like Gibson-Hill would be left with no choice, and for that reason Gibson-Hill says it’s discriminatory.

“I think this is also pretty clear that this is unconstitutional. So even if it does pass I don’t think it’s going to stay on the books for very long.”

7News reached out to major employers in the Upstate like BMW, Milliken and Michelin.

A spokesman for Michelin gave the following statement: “We are following the issue. We hope they will conduct the discussion with respect for all people in South Carolina, much as we aim to run our business every day.”

You can have a chance to comment as soon as next Wednesday April 13. The sub-committee meeting scheduled for 10:30am that day is open to the public.

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