WTF? Myrtle Beach a leader in a gay rights?

For Weekly SurgeJune 17, 2014 

The City of Myrtle Beach has made LGBTQ history. On June 10, the six members of the city council amended the city’s existing human rights ordinance to include the LGBTQ community. With this ground-breaking step forward, South Carolina’s leading beach community now becomes South Carolina’s leading protector of the members of its gay community.

The amended resolution, which was passed without objection, is quite comprehensive and provides specific verbiage aimed at curtailing discriminatory behavior. It includes the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” and prohibits discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, city services and programs, law enforcement, education and public accommodations. Bravo!

S.C. Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson explains, “As one of South Carolina’s major tourist destination and a town which draws both South Carolina natives and out-of-state retirees, the protections offered in Myrtle Beach by this ordinance will protect a large number of gay and transgender people who live in and visit our Palmetto State.”

During the past few years, S.C. Equality has received numerous reports of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals living in or visiting Myrtle Beach. Determined to make a difference and eradicate this sort of discrimination, S.C. Equality approached the Myrtle Beach Human Rights Commission last year with specific recommendations to update and expand the city’s existing ordinance. The action taken on June 10 was a direct result of that collaboration.

To quote the ever eloquent and poetic Vice President, Joe Biden, “This is a big fucking deal.” With this action, Myrtle Beach now surpasses Columbia, Charleston, Richland County and Charleston County in its commitment to ensuring fair treatment to its LGBTQ residents and visitors. By purposely extending the areas of protection to include city services, law enforcement and education, the city is now on comparable ground with Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Boston. This also raises the bar for the rest of the state.

Trending comments so far have been remarkably positive. Those who oppose the action really don’t seem to bring anything new to the debate. They claim the LGBTQ Community is asking for special rights or inhibiting others to practice their beliefs. A few claim we’re demanding a rewrite of the Constitution. I’m sorry, but that sort of reasoning requires a special kind of stupid.

An epic example of this philosophy was espoused by an online commenter named Emily who said, “Why does any special interest group need their own special, and extra, set of laws? … I don't go to MB now, because I don't want to get shot or sexually harassed by creeps walking down the street. I guess I have even more reason to stay away now. MB is a cesspool, catering to pop culture whims. It was a beautiful place some time ago.” I’m guessing Emily’s ideal Myrtle Beach of yesteryear probably included separate lunch counters and drinking fountains labeled “White” and “Colored.” So yes Emily, please stay the hell away.

This step forward is not about the LGBTQ community taking anything away from any other group of people or forcing anyone to change their personal beliefs. This is about an end to sanctioned discrimination. For people who have never been in the position of feeling powerless, the significance of this action is going to be difficult to understand. I would like to volunteer my personal time to help clarify it for them.

Myrtle Beach, like it or not, is a growing international community. It is not just the place where people from the Upstate come to drink and get a regrettable tattoo. The success of the city depends upon tourism dollars, its ability to attract new businesses and a steady stream of diverse visitors who come here, feel welcomed, have a great time and then go back home and spread the gospel of hospitality to others. That doesn’t happen when you exclude any group of people from the umbrella of protection.

By adopting the most inclusive protection policy in the state, the Myrtle Beach City Council has become the super cool high school athlete who puts an end to the bullying endured by the weaker kid who had to wonder who the next person would be to shove him or her into a locker. This is an example of identifying the right thing to do and acting on it.

So, on behalf of the gay community, I want to extend a profound expression of gratitude to the six people who have embraced courage and compassion and have challenged the rest of the state to do the same. Thank you Michael Chestnut, W. Wayne Gray, Clyde H. “Mike” Lowder, Susan Grissom Means, Philip N. Render and Randal Wallace. You are equality champions.

And I promise the rest of you that just because the LGBTQ community now has official protection and recognition in the City of Myrtle Beach, our agenda does not include anything radical such as forcing conservative clergy to marry us in their churches or adding the book “Heather Has Two Mommies” to the required reading lists for preschoolers. We are simply content to be recognized as equal.

Out and About

Friday, June 27 - Pulse Ultra Club will kick off its official Grand Opening Weekend in its new location at 2701 S. Kings Highway. For additional information, go to https://www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.

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