SC EQUALITY AT THE STATE HOUSE
We tirelessly lobby the South Carolina General Assembly, executive branch, and local governments, broadcast LGBT news, stories and content, and mobilize our communities on issues that matter most to you, including marriage equality, parental rights, inclusive anti-bullying policies, employment discrimination, hate violence, privacy rights, sexuality education, adoption, domestic partnerships, and HIV/AIDS.
As bills are being filed for the 2018 General Assembly session, check back often to learn what SC Equality is supporting and opposing.
Inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination
One of the most pressing issues facing South Carolina’s LGBT community is the absence of protections from workplace discrimination. South Carolina is one of 29 states where it is legal to fire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Many times we heard from LGBT South Carolinians who were afraid to speak out because they feared for their jobs. Sadly, many South Carolinians are unaware that these discrimination’s even exist. A SC Equality priority will be to hold legislators accountable for statements of support for the gay community by demanding that the General Assembly pass comprehensive non-discrimination legislation.
The basic American bargain is that people who work hard and meet their responsibilities should be able to get ahead. This basic bargain is not just an idea—it is embedded in laws that promote equal access to jobs and that protect workers from unfair practices.
For South Carolina workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), this bargain is broken. Instead of having a fair chance to get ahead, LGBT workers and their families are often held back by bias, fewer workplace benefits, and higher taxes.
Employers who value diversity and who understand that it gives them a competitive advantage can take some steps to ease the burden of unfair treatment of gay and transgender workers and their families, but they can’t fix the broken bargain on their own. The reason: unequal treatment of LGBT workers under the law.
- Barrier #1: Bias and Discrimination in Recruitment and Hiring. South Carolina’s LGBT workers can put their job prospects at risk if they disclose that they are gay or transgender while looking for work.
- Barrier #2: On-the-Job Inequality and Unfairness. An LGBT employee may be in a workplace that is blatantly hostile, one that condones anti-gay or transgender jokes and slurs, and/or one where employers look the other way and allow a discriminatory climate to flourish.
- Barrier #3: Wage Gaps and Penalties. In addition to job and workplace discrimination, LGBT employees face wage disparities that make it harder for them to provide for themselves and their families.
- Barrier #4: A Lack of Legal Protections. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. Transgender workers facing workplace discrimination may seek federal legal recourse by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but only 16 states and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity/expression.
Recommendations for Action
First, no federal law provides explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, and 29 states, including South Carolina, have no statewide laws that protect workers based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression. Second, LGBT workers may do the same job as their coworkers, yet be denied equal access to worker and family benefits—as well as family tax relief.
The combination of job discrimination, fewer benefits and higher taxes leaves many LGBT workers in a vulnerable position that threatens their ability to provide for themselves and their families. In short, for hundreds of thousands of LGBT South Carolinians, the freedom to work is unfulfilled.
Religious Refusal Legislation
The freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights. It’s enshrined in our Constitution and reflected in laws across our nation — and it’s not up for debate.
But a new type of bill appearing in state legislatures across the country, so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (or RFRAs), essentially allow individuals to use their religious beliefs to harm others, paving the way to challenge virtually any law designed to protect all of us from various forms of discrimination. These discriminatory bills have already created unforeseen consequences in other states, and cause real problems for people, governments and businesses. That’s why professional sports teams, state chambers of commerce, religious leaders, and businesses of all sizes are speaking out against this type of legislation.