Could this US county introduce a Poland-style ‘LGBT-Free Zone’?

Could this US county introduce a Poland-style ‘LGBT-Free Zone’?

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Greenville County Court House

A bid to erase an anti-LGBT+ resolution from 1996 has taken a nasty turn in Greenville County, South Carolina.

It seemed almost certain that the vote would pass this week to remove the 1996 resolution from the books. But at the last minute, two councilors changed their votes.

And – even worse – one of them, Joe Dill, now wants the whole county to vote on the issue. If he gets his way, it will be put to a referendum on 3 November.

If that passes it will make Greenville County comparable to areas in Poland that have declared themselves ‘LGBT-Free Zones’ passing laws ‘against LGBT propaganda’ and ‘pro-family’.

What does Greenville County’s resolution say?

The 1996 resolution states ‘that lifestyles advocated by the gay community should not be endorsed by government policy makers, because they are incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes’.

And it claims ‘the traditional family structure … has been proven to be the primary and best method for fostering a positive development in children’.

It also ‘pledges not to fund those activities which seek to contravene these existing community standards’.

Moreover it claims: ‘This policy will serve and protect the health, safety and welfare of its constituents.’

LGBT+ supporters won the vote but lost all the same

The idea was that Greenville County Council would sunset all resolutions older than four years – including this hate-filled one.

Indeed, LGBT+ campaigners briefly thought they had won the day.

The sunset clause resolution had passed easily in an earlier committee meeting on Tuesday, with eight votes against three.

But then Councilors Bob Taylor and Joe Dill switched their votes.

Even then, the majority of councilors still voted for the sunset clause resolution. But it secured only six votes in favor to five opposed with one absentee.

Incidentally that absentee was Councilor Ennis Fant, a consistent opponent of the 1996 resolution. He was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

Initially LGBT+ supporters were cheered and clapped when Council Chairman Butch Kirven announced the six to five vote. They thought they had won.

But they became confused when Kirven said: ‘The resolution fails to proceed on a 6-5 vote.’

And he then clarified the measure needed seven votes to pass under council rules. They had failed by just one.

‘Traditional values’ strike back

It appears Dill and Taylor changed their mind after a stream of Christian right-wingers demanded the 1996 resolution should stay.

Many quoted scripture and cited ‘traditional family values’ as they stepped up to speak.

The Greenville Journal reports the crowds grew so large, many had to listen outside on loudspeakers.

The Journal adds most of the right-wingers had not been present at earlier meetings when LGBT+ advocates stated their case.

Now Dill has proposed a resolution to put the 1996 resolution to a referendum.

The ballot would ask Greenville County voters whether they support the ‘community values’ as in the 1996 resolution.

If the council agrees to Dill’s plan, it will go to the vote at the same time as the general election on 3 November.

Meanwhile, LGBT+ advocates will continue to argue for change.

Local LGBT+ group Upstate Pride SC admitted:

‘Tonight wasn’t the result we wanted at all. But guess what? We still have PLENTY of fight left. See you all in two weeks. Same time, same place. Same old fight for equality and inclusion.’

South Carolina is one of 29 states where LGBT+ people are not fully protected from discrimination. Despite this, a 2018 PRRI poll shows that 58% of South Carolinians support nondiscrimination laws.

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith