S.C. Senate debates anti-gay teen dating bill

Since last year, equality advocates in South Carolina have been fighting an anti-LGBT bill which would exclude gay and lesbian students from lessons on domestic violence. The bill has previously passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where the Education Committee sent it to a subcommittee on Feb. 24. On May 12, the bill came up for debate.

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SC Equality reports:

This morning, the Senate K-12 Education Sub-Committee held another hearing on H3543, the Teen Dating Violence Bill. SC Equality, its lobbyist, and allied organizations like Sean’s Last Wish were present–with four witnesses who were prepared to present expert and personal testimony in opposition to the non-inclusive dating violence bill.

Although we were not given the opportunity to present our testimony, fair-minded members of the Senate–Senators Lourie and Leventis–gave voice to our position. They acknowledged that the current language of the bill is discriminatory and privileges some relationships over others, and they argued that the bill should not move forward in its current form. As expected, Senator Fair rejected this argument and would not accept the bill without the amendment excluding same sex partners. Realizing that this one issue of defining a dating partner is the only thing that is holding up moving this otherwise sound bill forward, the Chair, Senator Hayes, asked if there was a compromise position that could be taken that would satisfy both sides. Senators Leventis and Fair agreed to discuss this further outside of the hearing. Thus, no action was taken on the bill today.

SC Equality is fully committed to seeing that a non-discriminatory dating violence bill–one that protects all children equally–is passed. We will continue to aggressively monitor the progress of this legislation, and should another hearing be scheduled, we will have witnesses ready.

These witnesses will be your voice at the hearing–so we need to hear from you. Should we have an opportunity to testify or to speak with legislators individually, it would be extremely helpful to be able to share stories from those who have experienced dating violence, particularly from the perspective of gay youth. If you have had experiences that you would be willing to share, please contact us at info@scequality.org. We will respect all confidentiality.

Thank you for your ongoing support of SC Equality as we advance civil and human rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender South Carolinians. We are your organization, and we can’t do it without you.

Despite the pending anti-gay legislation, several school districts across the Palmetto State have already begun offering LGBT-inclusive domestic violence lesson-plans through a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Education and Columbia-based Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.