South Carolina House passes transgender sports bill despite Democratic stall tactic of introducing 1,000 amendments

The South Carolina House Republican majority survived more than 1,000 amendments from Democrats on Tuesday and passed a bill that would ban transgender students to practice women’s or women’s sports in public college schools.

The Democrats’ delaying tactic was largely symbolic, but it still delayed a vote for hours before the bill passed 82-28 on Tuesday night. The bill was just one routine step away from heading to the South Carolina Senate for its consideration. This chamber is also dominated by Republicans.

If eventually passed and signed into law, the bill would require South Carolina to join a number of other conservative states in requiring transgender students compete with the gender listed on their birth certificates.

Between the four big drums of amendments and a tornado warning that evacuated the hemicycle, the debate dragged on for almost eight hours. But the majority of the Republican House passed the bill around 9:15 p.m. Tuesday.

On a dozen states to have already passed similar legislationand transgender athletes have become a problem in midterm campaigns in states like Pennsylvania. But Republicans are out of step, with GOP governors in Indiana and Utah veto bans in their states.

South Carolina-Transgender-Youth Sports
A box of amendments sits on the desk of South Carolina Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, as he prepares to speak against a bill to ban transgender athletes from sports teams public and university schools for girls and women on Tuesday, April 5. , 2022, in Columbia, South Carolina

Jeffrey Collins/AP

Republican President Jay Lucas floated nearly 600 amendment proposals on Tuesday, saying they were nearly the same with only small changes like changing school names in each proposal.

After those rulings, Democrats backed off even further, with the author of most of the changes claiming the House shutdown for several hours was a victory.

“Today we saw so many of my colleagues standing up for people who don’t often have a voice,” said Rep. John King, a Democrat from Rock Hill.

Supporters of the bill mostly remained silent on Tuesday so as not to prolong the debate. An amendment was passed that would create female wrestling teams in high schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ashley Trantham, took to the podium just before the vote, thanking the people who fought for two years to pass the bill in South Carolina. He failed in a House committee in 2021.

“It’s because of your actions that South Carolina is on the verge of saving women’s sports,” the Republican de Pelzer said.

South Carolina-Transgender-Youth Sports
South Carolina Rep. Ashley Trantham, R-Pelzer, speaks with other lawmakers during a debate on the bill she sponsored to ban transgender athletes from public school sports teams and colleges. colleges for girls and women on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Columbia, SC

Jeffrey Collins/AP

The South Carolina High School League said it takes on a case-by-case basis which teams a transgender athlete can play for and has heard fewer than five requests. Republican Superintendent-elect of Education Molly Spearman is also against the proposal.

Democrats said Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for choosing people whom much of society already treats poorly.

“Leave those transgender kids alone. It’s less than 1%,” said Rep. Krystle Matthews, a Democrat from Ladson.

Before Tuesday’s debate began, Democrats tabled four boxes full of amendments — about 1,000 in all — to change the bill. Republicans immediately invoked a rule limiting debate to just three minutes per amendment. If the Democratic members could have continued to take their time and continue to demand two-minute votes, the debate could have dragged on into the weekend.

Some amendments from Democrats would make substantive changes to the bill, such as allowing a public high school to opt out of the requirements or requiring women’s sports to have the same number of assistant coaches or equipment as men’s teams.

Others would do things like rename the proposal “Discrimination Capital of the United States Act” or name individual schools or allow school groups to play only at women’s sporting events.

The debate was also delayed nearly an hour after the House chamber was evacuated for a tornado warning for Columbia.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate but was not debated. The showdown came as the bill faced a deadline this week to pass at least one chamber or it would need a two-thirds vote to be considered.

At least a dozen of the 43 House Democrats took turns speaking on the amendments. Lucas cut them off abruptly when their time was up.

Rep. Annie McDaniel was talking about statistics on mental health issues and suicide rates among transgender youth when Lucas told her bluntly, “‘Ms. McDaniel, your time on the amendment has expired.’

“Okay,” said the Winnsboro Democrat. “I’ll come back to finish telling you about it.”

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