As the year winds down and we gather with our loved ones for the holidays, some South Carolina lawmakers have been working overtime to propose new violations of our civil liberties.
Here are some of the worst, cruelest, and most plainly unconstitutional bills that our state legislators proposed during the past month’s pre-filing period. All of the following bills will be up for consideration when lawmakers return to Columbia in mid-January.
As part of a broader book-banning bill (H. 4707), Rep. Jordan Pace (R-Berkeley) is proposing an entire new category of speech ban. Under this bill, public school teachers would be forbidden from providing their preferred personal title or pronouns. They would also be forbidden from asking students about their pronouns.
Journalist Erin Reed, who has been tracking the spread of anti-trans laws across the United States, recently noted that this bill goes beyond even the extreme measures of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. This might be the first bill in the country that would require schools to adopt the official positions that “the sex of a person is an immutable biological trait” and “it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”
A new barrier to elected office
Sen. Josh Kimbrell (R-Spartanburg) pre-filed a bill (S. 885) that would require candidates for the legislature to pass a competency test on the U.S. and South Carolina constitutions.
We shouldn’t have to explain this to a supposed aficionado of constitutional law, but this country did away with poll taxes, literacy tests, and other unconstitutional requirements for political office a long time ago. Imposing new requirements on people seeking elected office would be a giant step backward for us as a state.
Another attack on trans people and their families
A pre-filed bill in the House (H. 4624) would ban medically necessary care for transgender youth. It's practically identical to a bill that was previously filed in the Senate (S. 627), and it's similar to state laws elsewhere that have already forced transgender people, families of trans kids, and medical professionals to flee states like Florida and Texas.
If you’d like to send a message to state lawmakers telling them you oppose this overreach, we have an email-writing form that will connect you to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, which could start holding hearings on the topic as early as January 18.
Banning DEI: It’s not just for colleges anymore
Members of the far-right South Carolina Freedom Caucus remain hard at work proving how little they think of everyone else’s freedom. After ramming their K-12 censorship bill (H. 3728) through the House only to have it stalled in conference committee when the Senate couldn’t agree with the most extreme provisions, they are turning their attention to institutions of higher education. The forbidden concept this time is DEI, a common acronym for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
After co-sponsoring one bill that would ban DEI departments and concepts at all state colleges and universities back in May (H. 4290), Freedom Caucus member Rep. Thomas Beach (R-Anderson) helped pre-file a more expansive bill this month (H. 4663) that would ban DEI not only in higher education, but at all state offices, departments, and schools.
Bathroom bills are back
A pair of pre-filed bills would ban transgender people from using bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender. One bill specifically refers to school restrooms (H. 4538), while the other refers to all public restrooms (H. 4535).
Back in 2016, when similar bills were being proposed all over the country, then-Gov. Nikki Haley publicly opposed a bathroom bill in simple terms: “I don’t believe it’s necessary.” South Carolinians have repeatedly told lawmakers they don’t want the government policing bathroom usage, but bills like these keep coming back.
Now, with plenty of real issues worth tackling in our state, a few lawmakers want us to have this same tiresome debate all over again.
The state legislature will return to Columbia in January for the second half of the 2023-24 legislative session. Bills that were active in 2023 will remain active in 2024, so we’ll still be keeping an eye on high-profile proposals including the classroom censorship bill (H. 3728) and the drag performance ban bill (H. 3616). Other bills that flew under the radar, like a pre-filed bill from December 2022 that would end no-fault divorce (H. 3488), remain active as well.
Keep your eye on the blog in January, as we’ll be restarting our weekly “This Week Under the Copper Dome” dispatches. You can also research some important bills on our Legislation page, and you can check how your state lawmakers voted on key civil-liberties issues in 2023 via our Legislative Scorecard.