South Carolina has made quite a few positive strides for the LGBTQ community in the past few weeks. On June 15, the city of Charleston passed a nondiscrimination resolution in response to recent transphobic legislation. This resolution mentioned the anti-transgender bills that were introduced in 2021, stating that Charleston recognizes its responsibility to promote equality for all gender-expansive people. Meanwhile, in Columbia, the City Council passed a ban on conversion therapy.
In the official Charleston resolution, the city references their 2020 score of 81 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Municipal Equality Index. The resolution also calls out the multitude of transphobic legislation that has been filed in over twenty-five states within the last several months.
With fines of $500 applicable to all counselors and therapists who practice conversion therapy on a minor, Columbia is working hard to ensure that no licensed physicians try to alter anyone’s sexuality or gender identity. Columbia is the first city in South Carolina to pass this ban. A few members of the Columbia community, like President of Columbia International University, Mark Smith, says conversion therapy should be allowed to continue.
Smith says that banning such practices would be a breach of the constitutional right to religious freedom. Councilwoman Tamieka Isaac Devine was more concerned with the impact of conversion therapy on its recipients rather than its perpetuators. Devine emphasizes, “The harm that has been done by conversion therapy methods has been documented. But there has not been anything that proves this therapy does what it purports to say it does.”
In response to Smith’s concerns, Councilman Howard Duvall stresses, “There is no word in this ordinance that deals with religion. It does nothing to restrict a pastor’s pastoral duties. It is clearly aimed at licensed practitioners.”
With Councilmembers like Devine, Duvall and Charleston Councilwoman Carol Jackson spearheading these LGBTQ-inclusive endeavors, more change is on the horizon. Transgender folk in Charleston will now be protected by the city just as LGBTQ minors in Columbia will be protected by theirs. These governmental organizations are doing their best to prove that they celebrate, respect and protect their constituents.
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