Trans Lives Matter, Too: November 2020 Will be a Reckoning on Civil Rights for All

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Amidst the recent mass nationwide uprisings, dominated by the sentiments of the Black Lives Matter movement, an effective reincarnation of the Civil Rights Movement, the Trump administration has continued its efforts to deny transgender people civil rights, denying them equal protections under the law.

Let’s look at just two recent examples of the Trump administration abusing its power to enforce the status of transgender people as second-class citizens who neither enjoy nor for that matter deserve equal protection under the law.

  • At the end of last May, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos acted in violation of the 1972 civil rights law known as Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools receiving federal funding, when she threatened the state of Connecticut with loss of federal education funding if it continues to allow transgender girls to compete in school sports with girls who are not transgender. Both the ACLU and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) disagree. A spokesperson for CIAC made clear the state’s position on civil rights:

“Connecticut law is clear and students who identify as female are to be recognized as female for all purposes — including high school sports. To do otherwise would not only be discriminatory but would deprive high school students of the meaningful opportunity to participate in educational activities, including inter-scholastic sports, based on sex-stereotyping and prejudice sought to be prevented by Title IX and Connecticut state law.”

DeVos is taking up the cause of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative legal group representing three girls suing to stop trans athletes from playing against them, claiming it’s a civil rights violation.  The Southern Poverty law Center has actually identified the Alliance Defending Freedom as an “extremist hate group” for its record of legal efforts to undermine LGBTQ rights.

So, DeVos and the Trump administration, not surprisingly, made league with a hate group in seeking to curtail rather than expand civil rights for all Americans.

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  • As has been reported multiple times (here, here, and here) on PoliticusUsa.com, just last Friday the Trump administration removed protections for transgender people from the Affordable Care Act. In 2016, the Obama administration altered federal health care guidelines, expanding what it meant to disallow discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include protection based on gender identity “which may male, female, or a combination of male and female.”  Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services declared Friday that the rule against discrimination is based on “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

Interestingly—and disgustingly–enough, last fall the Supreme Court wrestled with the meaning of “sex” similarly in hearing arguments in a case for which it is expected soon to issue a ruling  that will decide the major civil rights question before it, regarding whether or not gay and transgender people are protected under federal legislation that outlaws employment discrimination “on the basis of sex.”

At a minimum, it’s fair to say it’s no slam dunk that the Supreme Court will arrive at ruling that endows LGBTQ Americans with the basic civil rights that American ideals, especially those ideals people, particularly African Americans, took to the streets for in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, pose as fundamental liberties for all.

Justice Samuel Alito, for one, suggested his opposition to defining “sex” as including sexual orientation, at one point responding to attorney Pamela Karlan, representing two of the plaintiffs, “You’re trying to change the meaning of what Congress understood sex to mean in 1964.”

While we see Americans taking to the streets to demand civil rights and equal justice under the law for African Americans and people of color in the U.S., the Trump administration charges ahead with its efforts to enforce second-class citizenship on transgender people.

Trump has no intention of expanding civil rights for people of color, women, or LGBTQ people.

And yet, while it is indisputable that women and people of color have been denied civil rights, their personhood has nonetheless been acknowledged in civil rights legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

This language does not include, apparently, LGBTQ people. Indeed, the Supreme Court is currently deliberating whether LGBTQ deserve to be recognized as possessing “personhood” and thus, by extension, to be endowed with civil rights.

The Senate, you recall, was recently unable to pass anti-lynching legislation because of Rand Paul’s objections. An Evangelical group at the time voiced its own objections to the legislation including anti-lynching protections for LGBTQ people!

This is where we are heading into 2020.  Do we believe all people deserve to live free from discrimination and to enjoy legal protections against their being lynched, or not?

Do we believe some folk deserve second-class citizenship and that others should have the right to subject them to violence because their lives don’t matter?

It’s really quite outrageous these questions are up for debate.

Let’s move to settle these questions and move to endow all with civil rights this November.