S.C. Statehouse Report
Feb. 15, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.0215.biggerfish.htm

Legislature has bigger fish to fry
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

FEB. 15, 2004 - - If state lawmakers don't have anything better to do than talk about gay marriage and the Ten Commandments, they should stay home and save taxpayers some money.

At a time when the state is short millions of dollars to fund its priorities, has critical educational needs and is considering a major restructuring of how government works, spending time on election-year wedge issues is nothing more than wasteful grandstanding.

What's happening in Columbia is some GOP House members are trying to shore up their conservative bases by introducing bills that don't have much substantive meaning. Gay marriage and the Ten Commandments are perfect examples:

Ten Commandments. The House spent much of Wednesday's session discussing a resolution proposed by Rep. Thad Viers, R-Myrtle Beach, to encourage Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings.

Bypassing arguments on the constitutional separation of church and state, the proposal is essentially meaningless because it only asks Congress to do something. In practical terms, state legislative resolutions frequently get passed and sent to Congress where they promptly are shelved. Why? Because Congress is busy enough with its own issues.



McLEMORE'S WORLD: Bad Valentine

FEEDBACK: Seat belt controversy



We encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:


Recent feedback

So why would the resolution be introduced? To allow conservative forces to rally around the Ten Commandments for the media, get a story in the hometown newspaper and seem like they're doing something for conservative allies. In addition, they can use the vote on the measure, which passed 89-19, to target and alienate anybody who opposed the bill. (Many support the values of the Ten Commandments, but voted against the bill because they believe in the separation of church and state.)

In short, it's an election-year political ploy to make some lawmakers look like they are doing something at home and allow them to use the vote against political enemies in November.

Gay marriage. For the record, gay marriage is against the law in South Carolina. The legislature outlawed it in 1996 with this clear, specific language: "A marriage between persons of the same sex is void ab initio and against the public policy of this State."

Now come Reps. Gloria Haskins, R-Greenville, and Marty Coates, R-Florence, who propose two identical bills that say, "Any marriage entered into by persons of the same sex in any other jurisdiction must be considered and treated in all respects as having no legal force or effect in this State and must not be recognized by this State."

Regardless of what you think about the policy of gay marriage, lawmakers supporting the measures seem to be capitalizing on national headlines to say the current clear law isn't good enough. Haskins insisted her proposal wasn't election-year politics, but a measure to reinforce state policy.

"This in no way violates an individual's civil rights," she said. "I'm not intending to tell them what to do. I'm just reinforcing what our public policy is."

Frankly, it is telling people what they can't do. It's blatant discrimination against a group of people who are easy to pick on. Also, there are lots of people in the state who say the proposal does violate their civil rights.

When asked whether her opinion of the proposal would change if the words "of the same sex"were replaced by "of Latino descent," Haskins, who was born in Colombia, got a little flustered and replied, "That's comparing apples to marbles."

If the proposal would have said, for example, any marriages of blacks or Latinos or Irish or WASPs outside South Carolina shouldn't be recognized inside the state, citizen groups, the NAACP, the Christian Coalition, the ACLU and the like would be screaming about the state's backwardness. Just because it targets gays doesn't make the proposal nondiscriminatory.

In short, this is what your SC House has been up to - - putting election-year politics above the real needs of the state. If you think lawmakers should focus efforts on more important state business, give them a call and let them know your opinion. Unless you call, you'll see more headlines in coming weeks that highlight hot-button political wedges.

Bad Valentine

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

2/9: One use for a proctologist

To the editor, regarding last week's seat belt column:

Why does this seem so reasonable and universally enforced except in SC? I know where to find the heads of the State Senators who are against this law however it would take a proctologist to extract them.

-- Name withheld upon request, San Diego, Calif.

How you can subscribe to the full edition of the report

The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::

Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.

Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda

Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly

McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.

Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language

Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.

Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.

Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact account manager Rebecca Gray at: rebecca@statehousereport.com


Learn more about Statehouse Report

  Copyright 2004, S.C. Statehouse Report, a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.
Retransmission or reproduction of more than one copy is prohibited without express permission of the publisher. For additional information, including subscription prices, go to