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South Carolina lawmaker wants referendum to make county similar to Poland’s ‘LGBT-free’ zones

Emma Powys Maurice March 8, 2020
LGBT free zone stickers

"LGBT-free zone" stickers distributed by a Polish conservative newspaper, Gazeta Polska. (GPtygodnik/ Twitter)

A councillor in the South Carolina county of Greenville is pushing for a referendum that could make the region similar to Poland’s ‘LGBT free’ zones.

Earlier this week councilman Joe Dill voted to block the repeal of an anti-gay resolution from 1996, which stated that “lifestyles advocated by the gay community should not be endorsed by government policy makers, because they are incompatible with the standards to which this community subscribes.”

Not content with simply keeping a homophobic resolution on the books, he now wants a referendum to determine whether the law should be permanently kept in place.

The ballot would ask the voters of Greenville County whether they believe and support the “community values” as expressed in the resolution. The referendum would be held before the presidential election later this year.

If Dill gets his way, it would effectively establish Greenville as an ‘LGBT-free zone’ comparable to those in Poland, where local governments sign a pledge promising to refrain from working with or giving financial assistance to any causes that promote LGBT+ rights.

These LGBT-free areas now cover about a third of Poland, spanning an area larger than the size of Hungary. They have been strongly condemned by the European Parliament as well as the international LGBT+ community.

LGBT-free Poland
The red area shows the municipalities in Poland that have signed the LGBT-free pledge. (Atlas of Hate)

According to local news reports Dill’s proposed referendum has inflamed the county, with those in favour of the law swarming the council and forming a crowd so large they had to be addressed with megaphones.

Council chairman Butch Kirven, who was in favour of repealing the discriminatory resolution, firmly addressed the crowd after the vote.

“Community values and standards are as important today as they ever have been and those things cannot be legislated or coerced by government,” he said.

“They must be nurtured by people themselves. Everyone has the freedom to seek and strive to achieve their own ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and this county council cannot change that.

“Nowhere in state law in our given duties and responsibilities does it say anything about County Council being responsible for setting the community standards of Greenville County.

“Those are individual responsibilities. So that’s my comment on tonight’s proceedings.”

Upstate Pride SC, a local LGBT+ group, posted on Facebook: “Tonight wasn’t the result we wanted at all. But guess what? We still have PLENTY of fight left. See you all in two weeks. Same time. Same place. Same old fight for equality and inclusion.”

Dill’s resolution has been scheduled on the agenda at a “future appropriate time,” according to Kirven.

More: Greenville, LGBT-free zones, Poland, South Carolina

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