South Carolina bill aims to restrict transgender access to bathrooms

South Carolina lawmakers have introduced a measure that would block transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match their birth sex, despite increasing calls for a repeal of a similar provision enacted last month in North Carolina.

The legislation proposed in the state Senate on Wednesday also would prohibit local governments from requiring private businesses to provide restroom access based on gender identity rather than birth gender.

“Men should use the men’s room, and women should use the women’s room – that’s just common sense,” Republican Senator Lee Bright, a sponsor of the bill, told The State newspaper. “North Carolina is getting so much flak over what is common sense.”

The South Carolina measure is narrower than North Carolina’s law, which precludes local governments from adopting anti-discrimination ordinances with protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

But opponents warned that the new proposal could spark the economic backlash seen this week in North Carolina, where PayPal Holdings Inc cited the discriminatory nature of the law in canceling a new operations center that was to employ 400 workers in Charlotte.

More than 130 business leaders, including the chief executive officers of Bank of America, Herbalife and American Airlines, have signed a letter with the Human Rights Campaign calling for a repeal.

“Government simply has no place in our bathrooms,” said Jeff Ayers, executive director of South Carolina Equality, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, said the state already passed a religious liberty law in 1999.

“It has worked just fine,” she told reporters. “We don’t have to mandate respect or kindness or responsibility in this state.”

More than a dozen states have considered bathroom provisions this year that would restrict access for transgender people, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The measures come amid a wave of legislation pushed by social conservatives after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last year.

Mississippi’s Republican governor on Tuesday signed a law allowing people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and permitting employers to cite religion in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.

Last week, the governors of Georgia and Virginia vetoed “religious liberty” bills.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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