COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina lawmakers put on hold Wednesday a youth dating violence that would exclude gay youths, but vowed to continue working on the measure in subcommittee.
The Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday morning to send the bill back to subcommittee, following a second failed attempt by Sen. Phil Leventis to delete the passage concerning sexual orientation.
The bill, introduced in the House last year by Rep. Joan Brady, would require the state Department of Education to develop a dating violence policy recognizing threats, physical or emotional abuse, or stalking occurring on school property, and referring the students to counseling.
[Click here to read the full text of the bill]
In a state that consistently ranks high in domestic violence rates, advocates say the bill will raise awareness and help discourage violence between dating partners at an early age.
But House Rep. Greg Delleney amended the bill in 2009 to define "dating partners" to apply only to heterosexual couples. The exclusion of same-sex relationships has drawn much criticism, with gay rights advocates saying the measure further discriminates against students who are already vulnerable to bullying, depression and self-doubt.
Rep. Delleney said he fears including gay teens in the bill's protection would lead to teaching in middle and high schools about same-sex relationships.
"The problem is, the language lessens one group of people over another, and that's wrong," said Sen. Joel Lourie Wednesday.
However, Lourie also said he thought the bill may not pass the Senate if it addresses violence in same-sex couples.
Senators said on Wednesday that the bill will not die in subcommittee, as is sometimes known to happen.