However, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said Thursday that there had been no complaints that would suggest such a bill is needed.
Haley said she had not heard about any incidents involving transgender people using bathrooms or any reports of people feeling as if their religious liberties were being impeded.
“When I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that feel like they’re being violated in terms of freedoms,” Haley said.
South Carolina State Sen. Lee Bright, a Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors, said North Carolina is getting criticized for a law “that’s just common sense,” according to the State newspaper.
The South Carolina proposal comes as battles are erupting nationwide over gay rights and other social issues, fights that pit social conservatives against some of the country’s most prominent businesses. The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said it has tracked nearly 200 bills deemed anti-LGBT introduced in nearly three dozen states so far this year.
Three such laws have been adopted, including the measure in North Carolina barring local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people.
North Carolina’s law had prompted a heated pushback from major business groups, and earlier this week, PayPal — the online payments firm based in California — announced that it was dropping plans to expand to Charlotte due to the law. This operations center was expected to employ 400 people and pump $3.6 million into the local economy by the end of next year, according to state officials.
Evangelical Christians have argued that the laws are not discriminatory, but instead are needed to protect people with religious views who feel they could be forced to violate them.
The Mississippi law was praised by the Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelist in North Carolina. Graham had harsh words for PayPal’s decision not to move into his state, calling the company hypocritical for operating in countries — including Nigeria and Yemen — where homosexuality is criminalized.
“PayPal only agreed to come to Charlotte in the first place after holding out for millions in corporate incentives,” Graham wrote in a statement on Facebook. “And under the current law that they are so strongly protesting, PayPal could have chosen their own corporate bathroom policies.”
Graham called on people to pray for the lawmakers supporting the law “that they stand strong against the attacks of this wicked agenda.”
Lawmakers in states like Missouri and Tennessee have also considered religious liberty or “bathroom” bills. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said Thursday he was signing executive orders to protect state employees and contractors from discrimination based on sexual or gender identity because legislation governing everyone in the state had not made it to his desk.
This story has been updated and corrected. It originally said the North Carolina law prohibits transgender people from using bathrooms that don’t match their gender assigned at birth; it has been updated to note that the law mentions gender listed on birth certificates, not assigned at birth.