Sarah Perry, who is senior counsel at the Trump-Pence U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, has a history of making extreme anti-LGBTQ comments, including calling conversion therapy “psychologically beneficial” and describing the affirmation of trans youth as a “politically overt, diabolical ... avenue." Perry was recently appointed co-chair of the office’s combined Diversity and Inclusion and Employee Engagement Advisory councils.
Perry previously worked on education issues at the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Family Research Council, where she was the Common Core Coalition manager. She also worked as director of partnerships for FRC Action, the organization’s political arm. Additionally, Perry frequently guest-hosted the group’s anti-LGBTQ radio show, Washington Watch, during which she made numerous disparaging remarks about LGBTQ people, especially trans people.
The Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David called Perry an anti-LGBTQ extremist and said: “The idea that someone who calls gender identity 'pseudoscience' and attacks TV shows that promote the inclusion of transgender people is completely disqualifying and violates the fundamental idea of the diversity and inclusion she is tasked with overseeing.”
Perry has made extreme anti-LGBTQ comments while guest-hosting FRC’s radio show
Perry has called affirming trans children a “politically overt, diabolical ... avenue” and referred to a “transgender cult” and “cult mentality.”
Perry has said that the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy has “options ... that have been proven to be psychologically beneficial.” Conversion therapy seeks to change LGBTQ people’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Perry also once hosted Ricky Chelette of Living Hope Ministries after the Apple Store removed the ministry’s conversion therapy app, which the episode notes describes as “censorship.”
Perry claimed Drag Queen Story Hour is “grooming” children sexually. Anti-LGBTQ figures have regularly fearmongered and spread lies about Drag Queen Story Hour, including claiming the program seeks to “sexualize" children and to “groom our children into their unhealthy lifestyle” that includes “HIV and AIDS.” Drag Queen Story Hour is a national program in which drag queens read children’s books to kids at libraries, schools, and other public places. Right-wing protestors have shown up to Drag Queen Story Hour events with weapons, threatened, and harassed participants.
Perry’s appointment comes as the Department of Education moves to undermine the rights of LGBTQ students
Perry’s work with the Trump-Pence Department of Education comes as the agency, under Secretary Betsy DeVos, works to undermine LGBTQ inclusion, and especially transgender inclusion, in schools. The New Civil Rights Movement reported on the department’s early rollback of inclusive policies for transgender students under the Trump-Pence administration:
Earlier in her tenure, DeVos rolled back Obama-era protections allowing trans students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. She later admitted that she did this even though she knew that it could lead to increased harassment, depression, and possibly suicide among transgender students.
In May, the department’s Office for Civil Rights sided with extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, claiming that Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to participate on girls sports teams violates Title IX. In September, the department threatened to withhold funding from schools that allowed the inclusive practice to remain. LGBTQ Nation reported:
Just last month, the DOE began threatening to cut funding to schools and universities that openly support LGBTQ students, getting in the way of other’s “religious freedom.” The Department immediately reached out to several schools in Connecticut, promising to cut millions in funding if they allow trans students to participate in activities such as athletics.
The department’s rollback of LGBTQ rights is in line with FRC’s anti-LGBTQ work. FRC has opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans; promoted the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy, including by testifying before state legislatures; filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas in support of anti-sodomy laws; and filed an amicus brief in Obergefell v. Hodges in support of bans on same-sex marriage. Additionally, the group’s official position is that “Homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it as it is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects. Thus, it is also harmful to society at large.”
Furthermore, FRC has a cozy relationship with the Trump-Pence administration, and Perry is just the latest FRC staffer to be hired by the administration. In 2018, FRC’s president, Tony Perkins, was appointed commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government commission dedicated to the “right to freedom of religion or belief abroad” that “makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.” In 2019, he was elected as chair of the commission. Additionally, FRC former chief of staff Shannon Royce is considered a “pivotal player” at the Trump-Pence Department of Health and Human Services.