Republican-dominant State Legislatures Continue to Limit Transgender Rights
At first glance, the news story this week about the head of the Texas Agriculture Department, Sid Miller, ordering his employees to dress “in a manner consistent with their biological gender sounded like a joke or hyperbole.
It couldn’t be true that a state official would be spending policy time on a dress code or singling out transgender employees. Apart from all else, this is the Agriculture Department. Shouldn’t they be wearing clothing appropriate for doing a food inspection in the fields?
Nope, the news was true, and likely in violation of federal protections which ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — as well as the First Amendment’s right to free expression and the Equal Protection Clause.
Anyone violating the policy will be asked to go home and change. If problems persist, the memo says, employees can face “remedies up to and including termination.”
There was no explanation of what trans employees, or any employees have been wearing to work other than the big Stetson that the commissioner, Sid Miller, wears or whether there are identifying trans employees in the state agriculture department.
So, the incident just joins a slew of others that are reflecting official action to make public transgender choices possible in our society, or at least in designated red states, including Texas.
Let’s be clear: There is nothing involved here in the protection of children from would-be “groomers,” or special intervention to support women swimmers against competitors who started life as male. We’re seeing a coordinated civil rights clampdown on trans people.
Montana Ousts Trans Legislator
In Montana this week, we saw Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat and the sole identifying trans legislator in the state, ousted because she dared to speak about a bill that would curb transgender treatments for minors – even if they have the support of family. You know, family values at work.
The vote followed an impassioned floor speech in which Zephyr noted calls to her office about a suicide threat from a young person who was following committee discussions about these laws. Zephyr warned majority legislators that they would have blood on their hands, a comment sure not to win friends.
Some of her followers in the gallery were vocal, and the Republican-dominated legislature decided that Zephyr, like the Tennessee Black Democrats who were ousted for rallying on the floor for gun-safety laws, had violated the chamber’s “decorum” rules.
Beyond decorum, there was nothing here about protecting school children or women’s sport or bathroom usage. Zephyr is officially barred from the floor, and her district is left without representation in debates. Meanwhile, in Congress, we are being treated to a series of non-decorous outbursts by the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert, both Republicans, who have not been tossed out – this year.
In Tennessee, there was talk of bringing charges against performer Lizzo for inviting drag queens to join her concert in protest of a pending law to ban drag performers. How many first graders or women swimmers do you think were at the concert?
The truth is that we’re seeing waves of bills setting limitations of all sorts in Republican-dominant state legislatures on transgender life and the enforcement actions of state officials. They involve health or gender-affirming care for transgender children or school programs and teachers and more.
The ACLU, which is fighting these laws in court, says it is tracking 469 such pieces of legislation since last year; here is a state-by-state list.
Where is the Spirit of Civil Rights?
Some engaged voters I talked with this week gave a nod to concerns about fairness for student athletes to account for perceived biological differences – though with hormone treatment that is not necessarily clear — but we could agree that this seemed far from justification for state laws.
Indeed, the preoccupation among these Republican-majority legislatures with LBGTQ+ issues seem rather a pointed attempt at discrimination around difference. Why this appeals as a partisan political platform, however, continues to gnaw.
The same people who want limitation of trans life choices also opposed same-sex marriage and opposed bills for equal pay for women or policies to put women in front-line, military combat units. If we wouldn’t stand for segregating women from voting or serving as a legislator or speaking out on women’s issues, why does this now suddenly make sense in Montana and Tennessee and Texas? What happened to the spirit behind expanding Civil Rights? Why are we bowing to this conspiratorial view of a Great Replacement by people who are non-White, non-Christian, non-straight?
Where are the 469 bills about the economy or supporting public health?
We have passed laws about discrimination, and these legislatures are moving against the law and democracy under the name of decorum. We need to call it out.
There was a report this week about an influx of identifying gay and trans residents from the South to Illinois – where the perception is that they could live their lives without a sense of fear. It’s a fulfillment of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s call for separate nation states within a United States.
That may seem necessary to some, but it’s not right.
WE ARE NEARLY 100% READER SUPPORTED. DONATE TODAY TO EMPOWER OUR NONPROFIT NEWSROOM.