041316_jeff2.jpgIt’s much ado about nothing, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley sees it. Haley says her office has not received any complaints about who uses what bathroom, adding that South Carolinians already are respectful to people from different backgrounds. Her remarks came in response to a transgender-bathroom bill, sponsored by state Sen. Lee Bright, Republican, Spartanburg that deals with the rights of people based on their gender identity. 

“I don’t believe it’s necessary,” Haley told reporters. “When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that are being violated in terms of freedoms,” she said. 

It would ban transgender people from using public bathrooms, showers or changing rooms of their choice. Bright said his proposal mimics a law passed last month in North Carolina. Except it doesn’t prohibit local governments from providing anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians, nor does it bar employees from taking discrimination claims to state courts. “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,” the governor added. 

Haley mentioned a South Carolina law, passed in 1999, that allows business owners to exercise their religious rights. Asked to explain the connection between the rights of citizens and business owners, the governor said religious-freedom advocates see transgender 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 contends his proposal is not 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. The head of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce said he agreed with the governor’s opinion that Bright’s bill is unnecessary. North Carolina’s new law, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed March 23, limits legal protections of LGBT individuals by setting a statewide definition of protected classes of citizens. The law means schools and local governments cannot adopt more inclusive rules. Legislative leaders said they were responding to Charlotte’s ordinance, which would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify. Since the bill’s signing, more than 100 prominent CEOs, including PayPal’s, have signaled their opposition.

One reason North Carolina’s legislation could be particularly damaging is that it runs counter to the image the state has cultivated nationwide as a more progressive, moderate Southern state, said Mark Sweeney, senior principal at McCallum Sweeney in Greenville, South Carolina. He said the companies that Charlotte in particular is seeking to recruit — high-tech, financial and advanced manufacturing — need to attract and retain millennial workers who are especially sensitive to issues such as LGBT rights. Another reason the North Carolina law stands out is that Georgia’s governor vetoed a similar measure last month. The business community applauded that decision, with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce issuing a statement commending Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, for “an outcome that preserves Georgia’s positive business climate, encourages job growth and sustains our quality of life.”


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