Diversity & Discrimination

Issues ››› Diversity & Discrimination
  • Federal Judge Smacks Down Right-Wing Media's Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    A recent ruling by a federal judge shut down right-wing media’s anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth, writing that there is “no indication” that a sexual predator could “claim transgender status” as a “defense against prosecution” for sneaking into a women’s restroom to commit a crime.

    On August 26, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a preliminary ruling barring the University of North Carolina from enforcing a portion of North Carolina’s discriminatory "bathroom bill" against three transgender people who sued the state after the bill’s passage this spring. The law, known as HB 2, bans transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificate. Schroeder’s injunction prevents the University of North Carolina from banning the three transgender plaintiffs -- two university students and one professor -- from using facilities that match their gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth. LGBT advocates are currently pushing to have the injunction expanded from the three plaintiffs to include all transgender people in North Carolina.

    In the limited preliminary ruling, Schroeder dismissed the claim, often peddled by right-wing media outlets, that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people would allow male predators to sneak into women’s bathrooms and commit sexual assault by pretending to be transgender. As Schroeder wrote, the “bathroom predator” myth has been repeatedly debunked by experts, and there is no evidence that allowing transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity leads to an increase in crime (emphasis added):

    North Carolina’s peeping and indecent exposure statutes continue to protect the privacy of citizens regardless of Part I, and there is no indication that a sexual predator could successfully claim transgender status as a defense against prosecution under these statutes.

    [...]

    As for safety, Defendants argue that separating facility users by biological sex serves prophylactically to avoid the opportunity for sexual predators to prey on persons in vulnerable places. However, the individual transgender Plaintiffs have used facilities corresponding with their gender identity for over a year without posing a safety threat to anyone. (See Doc. 22-4 ¶¶ 15, 30; Doc. 22-8 ¶¶ 19, 25; Doc. 22-9 ¶¶ 15, 19–20.) Moreover, on the current record, there is no evidence that transgender individuals overall are any more likely to engage in predatory behaviors than other segments of the population. In light of this, there is little reason to believe that allowing the individual transgender Plaintiffs to use partitioned, multiple occupancy bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities, as well as UNC to seek to accommodate use of similar showers and changing facilities, will pose any threat to public safety, which will continue to be protected by the sustained validity of peeping, indecent exposure, and trespass laws. And although Defendants argue that a preliminary injunction will thwart enforcement of such safety laws by allowing non-transgender predators to exploit the opportunity to cross-dress and prey on others (Doc. 55 at 4–5), the unrefuted evidence in the current record suggests that jurisdictions that have adopted accommodating bathroom access policies have not observed subsequent increases in crime.

  • Trump Adopts Right-Wing Media's Flawed Robert Byrd Canard To Detract From Allegations Of Racism

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump followed right-wing media’s lead by connecting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to mitigate the accusations that he is racist and has stoked racial tension. Conservatives have invoked Byrd’s past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for years to deflect from accusations of bigotry in the Republican Party, despite Byrd’s disavowal of his involvement with the hate group and his dedication of the rest of his life to atoning for his mistakes and supporting legislation to help minorities.

    After Clinton’s August 25 speech linking Trump to the “radical fringe” and accusing him of embracing a philosophy of “make America hate again,” Trump responded in an August 27 tweet, quoting supporters who lashed out at CNN for failing to mention that Clinton had once “said a KKK member was her mentor.” CNN confirmed that the supporters “referred to the last West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, a former KKK member whom Clinton mourned in 2010 as ‘a true American original, my friend and mentor.’”

    Right-wing media -- including Breitbart News and WND -- were quick to highlight the connection between Clinton and Byrd after her speech in an attempt to downplay her accusations against Trump. Independent Journal’s Frank Camp asserted that Clinton “can beat the drum against Trump over and over again, but her relationship with Senator Byrd may make those appeals ring hollow for some.” InfoWars claimed that Clinton and her campaign were “conveniently leaving out the fact that Hillary herself described Robert Byrd – a KKK leader who once called black people ‘mongrels,’ as her ‘friend and mentor.’” CNN political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes accused Clinton of having “a long track record ... of bias” because she “praised Senator Byrd.”

    This attempt at deflection is a familiar one for conservatives. In 2005, author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson explained in a Huffington Post piece that “Whenever a Republican makes a racial foot-in-the mouth gaffe, and Democrats publicly lambaste him for it, GOP leaders quickly and reflexively scream, ‘But what about Byrd,’ and pound the Democrats for having a former Klansman as a top Democrat.” However, Hutchinson noted that this flawed canard “makes Republicans seem disingenuous at best and racial hypocrites at worst” because “Byrd flirted with the Klan six decades ago” and Republicans, like Trump “flirted with them, in the past, and still do today.”

    The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart more recently pointed out that this conservative deflection is also flawed because Byrd “admitted his mistake and atoned for it in public and in policy.” The NAACP even mourned Byrd’s death in 2010 saying that he “went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.”

  • Media Should Note Common Denominator In Recent Wave Of Anti-LGBT Court Battles

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    In the last week, two courts have decided against the rights of LGBT people and their families in major equality battles, and Texas’ attorney general has filed a third lawsuit regarding LGBT Americans. As the media cover these cases, they should connect the dots that lead back to one nefarious organization: the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extremist group leading the national fight against LGBT equality.

    Alliance Defending Freedom is a right-wing legal powerhouse that’s linked to nearly every recent legal attack on LGBT equality in the United States -- as well as attacks on women’s reproductive health. ADF is behind the national push for both anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation that seeks to legalize discrimination against LGBT people and so-called bathroom bills that aim to prohibit transgender people, including public school students, from using facilities that align with their gender identity. ADF also works internationally to attack LGBT equality, including by helping defend laws in Belize and Jamaica that would put people in prison for engaging in gay sex.

     

     

    EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. A U.S. District Judge issued a summary judgement on August 19 in favor of Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan, which fired an employee, Aimee Stephens, after she told her employers of her plans to transition from male to female. ADF lawyers are now representing the chain of funeral homes, and they lauded last week’s decision, highlighting the court’s language about company owner Thomas Rost:

    Rost sincerely believes that it would be violating God’s commands if he were to permit an employee who was born a biological male to dress in a traditionally female skirt-suit at the funeral home because doing so would support the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.

    State of Texas v. United States of America. On August 21, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against a joint guidance released by the departments of Education and Justice that explained school administrators’ obligations to ensure that transgender students can attend school without facing discrimination based on sex. It built off previous court decisions and guidance stating that discrimination against transgender students constitutes illegal sex discrimination under federal law. The injunction was sought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a lawsuit against the the federal government along with several other states in response to the guidance. The lead counsel on this case is Austin Nimocks, who works for Paxton’s office but previously served as senior counsel at ADF.

    State of Texas v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On the heels of the above court ruling in its favor, Paxton’s office filed a new lawsuit on August 23 against the Department of Health and Human Services over nondiscrimination protections and expanded medical care for transgender people included in the Affordable Care Act. This case was also assigned to Judge Reed O’Connor, the same judge who granted the injunction against transgender students. The recent actions of Paxton’s office drew swift condemnation from the editorial board at The New York Times:

    These legal assaults on equal protection for transgender Americans are based on bigotry and the specious claim that they pose a threat to the safety of others. The toll exacted on this vulnerable population is heavy and will remain so as these cases and other litigation involving transgender laws move through the courts.

    As these cases continue to move through the court system, journalists should expose the extremist legal group behind the coordinated assault on LGBT equality.