Photo by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash

Don’t be Fooled 

 The movement for LGBTQ equality is again in jeopardy in South Carolina. Despite some progress at the national level, extremist lawmakers here at home are now working to erode support for equality.

Let’s be clear: Discrimination is shameful. No ifs, ands or buts.

But, some people don’t get the message. Just last month, S.C. Sen. Richard Cash stood before fellow senators and described the movement for LGBTQ equality as the beginning of the “downward spiral of our society.” In the middle of a speech about the proposed abortion ban, Cash admitted his own ignorance about transgender issues, claiming during a six-minute homophobic tirade that America was in rebellion against God.

“It’s so crazy. It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around it,” Cash said. “That someone can wake up in a man’s body and say, ‘I think this is all messed up, I think I’m a woman.’ ”

Cash is playing us for suckers. He knows full-well that discussions about gender identity have been going on in mainstream public policy circles for years, even in his far-right alternative reality. He is the one who has apparently refused to listen or acknowledge transgender people as humans and transgender issues as legitimate.

Yet, Cash is the kind of politician who frames LGBTQ equality debates in South Carolina.

This is all too predictable. Without the Trump outrage machine amplifying hateful extremism, Republicans are once again forced to drum up false culture war debates. Cloaked in God and country, South Carolina Republicans are lying to their own voters with nostalgic tales about why the world is changing and who they can blame.

But, let’s not give our state’s Republican leaders too much credit. Like the “bathroom bills” of 2016, Cash’s latest culture warrior legislation to ban trans women from school sports looks like a cut-and-paste job, based on template legislation distributed by extremist groups hoping to sow division at the state level.

Don’t fall for it. Divisive debates around these proposals are purpose-built to embarrass, intimidate and further ostracize young transgender men and women during their most vulnerable years.

“The only thing these bills do is harm kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence,” Human Rights Campaign attorney Catherine Oakley told NBC News last week.

In Washington last week, every single Republican member of Congress, including Daniel Island’s U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, voted against the Equality Act passed by Democrats. U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott will cast their votes soon.

South Carolinians who support LGBTQ equality must stand up against these extremist bullies. That means calling your legislators who are sponsors of Cash’s anti-trans legislation. In the Charleston area: S.C. Reps. Lin Bennett, Mandy Kimmons and Mark Smith, along with S.C. Sens. Brian Adams, Stephen Goldfinch and Larry Grooms.

History will not look kindly on leaders who support these hateful proposals that single out and discriminate against LGBTQ people, especially children. Shame.