The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday overturned punitive budgets cuts of nearly $70,000 against two universities that selected gay-themed books for their reading programs for incoming freshmen, but instead will require the schools to use the money to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents.
According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Republican Sen. Larry Grooms proposed the compromise after Democrats last week blocked a vote on a House proposal that would trim $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.
Grooms’ amendment redirects that money to programs “related to instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.” It also ensures students who object to the reading material can opt out with no negative consequences.
The newspaper reports the amendment was approved by voice vote, which means there’s no record of the number of ayes and nos. The Senate and House will now have to agree on which version of the state budget to adopt.
A vocal proponent of the retaliatory cuts, Grooms on Tuesday again referred to Fun Home as “pornography” — it’s certainly not the worst thing Republicans have said about the celebrated memoir, or about Bechdel — stating, “I don’t agree that taxpayer-funded pornography equates to free speech. Our rights that come from God . they are secured by what governments do.”
And Sen. Brad Hutto, a Democrat who last week orchestrated a nearly four-hour filibuster to block a vote on the cuts, repeated his assertion that state lawmakers are “hung up on sex,” and homosexuality, only this time he said it on the Senate floor: “Y’all can wish away homosexuality all you want. That’s all I think you think about. I’ve never heard all this squawking until it comes to homosexuality.”
Hutto had floated his own compromise last week that involved the colleges permitting students to read an alternative to the book selected for the programs (both schools already make provisions for students who object to the material). However, that proposal apparently didn’t gain traction.
Republican Sen. Tom Davis cut through the theatrics to arrive at the real reasons Grooms’ compromise, such that it is, appealed to lawmakers: It accomplishes little, as both universities already offer courses about the U.S. Constitution and other foundational documents, and … senators are tired of discussing the issue.
“It basically doesn’t really do that much,” the Post and Courier quotes him as saying. “Both sides … we’re ready to move on.”