- June 13, 2014
Post submitted by Ryan Wilson, executive director of SC Equality, South Carolina's state-based LGBT advocacy and public education organization
My first visit to Myrtle Beach was in 2008 for the 10-year anniversary of Pride.
In 1998, a number of anti-LGBT events inspired the organizers of South Carolina Pride to pack up and bring their annual march and festival to Myrtle Beach to show the city leaders that LGBT people lived, worked, and visited Myrtle Beach, making up an important part of the local economy.
A number of times, I've heard horror stories from LGBT friends who have visited Myrtle Beach. Some experienced bias incidents, like hearing anti-LGBT slurs or even more painful stories of same-sex couples being turned away from hotels.
When I joined the SC Equality team, I knew we had to do something. With the help of our board member, Veronica Walters, who lives in Myrtle Beach, we began a conversation with the Myrtle Beach Human Rights Commission. Veronica worked with them for months, becoming the first transgender member of the commission and now serves as Vice-Chair. SC Equality provided the commission with examples of Human Rights Ordinances passed in other South Carolina cities and the commission then made recommendations to Myrtle Beach City Council.
At its meeting on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, Myrtle Beach City Council approved an amendment to an existing human rights ordinance without objections. The update extends the 1990 resolution creating the City of Myrtle Beach’s Human Rights Commission to include persons of all “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The updated ordinance condemns any discrimination in "housing, employment, city services and programs, law enforcement, education and public accommodations."
One council member asked, "Why haven't we done this before now?"
Another remarked that they were 25 years behind South Carolina's state capital, Columbia, which passed an ordinance in 1991 protecting gay city employees from discrimination.
The Myrtle Beach City Council has taken a big step toward protecting LGBT Americans from future fears of mistreatment. In big cities and small, from coast to coast and in between, in red states and blue states, cities like Myrtle Beach are acting to bring equality to their own backyards.
HRC’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities around the country and rates them on how inclusive they are of LGBT people. For more information about the MEI, please visit: www.hrc.org/mei.
Visit SC Equality's Know Your Rights for more information on your rights in South Carolina.