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At Hearing On Equality Bill, Republicans Spew Anti-LGTQ Bigotry

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held a historic hearing on the Equality Act, a bill that would legally “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.”

And while Democrats on the committee asked thoughtful questions of the witnesses — including two people who had been fired or denied medical care because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — Republicans instead built straw men arguments about why transgender individuals shouldn’t receive the same protections as everyone else.

There was GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert, the Texas crackpot who argued that allowing transgender women into women’s shelters with cisgender women (women who are not transgender) was a “war on women.”

“Women they seem to have more post-traumatic stress disorder on sexual assault, and yet we’re going to force them to have men in confined spaces in shelters where they’re seeking a refuge away from men inflicting violence on them?” Gohmert said, grossly misgendering transgender women. “And because we’re going to stand up here and say, ‘Well it’s just too bad we’re going to force men to be into your spaces and you’re going to have to like it I think is a war on women that should not be allowed.'”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who has gone to great lengths to protect Trump, suggested there are “bad actors” who would somehow pretend to be transgender to “exploit the provisions of this law for their own gain.”

“Consider this possibility, if President Trump were to say, ‘I am now the first female president.’ Who would celebrate that?” Gaetz said, eliciting boos from onlookers in the hearing room. “Would those who support the legislation think that was a good thing? Or would they be dismayed?”

Of course, this is a ridiculous straw man argument. Transgender individuals are discriminated against and subjected to violence at higher rates than cisgender individuals. And the thought that someone would pretend to be transgender to get rights that everyone else already had makes absolutely zero sense.

If you thought that was the worst of the comments from Republicans on the committee, well, you thought wrong.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) made possibly the most insane and offensive remark of the day.

He asked Jami Contreras — a lesbian whose infant daughter was refused medical care by a doctor because the doctor didn’t want to treat the child of a same-sex couple — whether a Jewish doctor should be forced to treat a Nazi.

Yes, Buck — who was just elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party — compared a child of lesbian mothers seeking medical treatment to a Nazi.

Contreras was clearly caught off guard by such a hateful question, comparing her gender identity to a Nazi, that she asked other experts on the panel to weigh in. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, a Jew himself, piped in to remind Buck that Nazis are not a “protected class.”

Of course, at the end of the day, this bill would simply provide the same equality protections to LGBTQ individuals and women that cisgender men have enjoyed for centuries. And Republicans reverted to such patently absurd and vile hypotheticals because there is no good reason not to codify those rights into law.

“No one is hurt when trans people live authentically,” the ACLU tweeted as Republicans spewed their vile bigotry. “Not in the restroom. Not in the locker room. Not on the court, field or track.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

Trump Decrees On Twitter That Transgender People Are Now Banned From Military Service

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning that transgender people are banned from serving in the U.S. military.

According to a 2016 study by the Rand Corporation commissioned by the Department of Defense, there are about 11,000 transgender people in active duty and the reserves. Despite Trump’s claim that transgender people are a “burden” to the military, the Rand study found that allowing transgender people to serve openly “would have a minimal impact on readiness and health care costs.”

The study estimated about 30 to 140 hormone treatments per year in the military along with an estimated 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries for those in active service. The cost of these medical procedures, the study found, could range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which the study said would be “an exceedingly small proportion of total healthcare expenditures.”

Trump’s announcement has drawn criticism from a number of LGBT-rights and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU. A number of politicians have also come out against Trump’s ban. California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu said in a statement that Trump’s exclusion of transgender people in the military is “based on naked bigotry,” not facts.

“I know because I served on active duty,” Lieu said. “The military doesn’t care what your sexual orientation or identity is, or who you love. It cares about whether you can shoot straight and complete the mission. The president’s discriminatory decision harms our military readiness for our volunteer-based military. Thousands of transgender Americans are already in the military. Why? Because they are qualified, patriotic and willing to die for their country. There is zero evidence a transgender sniper would be any less qualified than a gay sniper or a straight sniper. Today is a sad day for America.”

Trump’s announcement reverses a policy introduced during the Obama administration and approved by the Defense Department that would allow transgender people to openly serve in the military. Implementation of the policy, which was still under final review, was delayed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis last month. The delay, requested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would last six months with a review due by December showcasing how allowing transgender people to serve in the military “would affect the military’s lethality,” according to the Washington Post.

Mattis said in a memo about the decision that the six-month delay “in no way presupposes an outcome,” but that more time was needed to finalize a decision.

“Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis stated in the memo. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military services.”

Trump’s announcement marks another blow against the transgender community. In February, the Trump administration reversed another Obama-era guideline instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Upon revoking the directive, Trump invoked states’ rights and said public schools should be able to establish their own decisions regarding the issue.

Celisa Calacal is a junior writing fellow for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College’s student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

White House to Public Schools: Let Students Use Whatever Bathroom They Want

Published with permission from Alternet.

The Obama administration issued a directive to all public schools Friday, instructing school officials to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity, the AP reports. A copy of the letter, which was sent to every public school district in the country from the Department of Justice, was posted on the DOJ’s website.

The letter said that “a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity,” adding that the DOJ’s interpretation is “consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.”

The directive comes less than five days after North Carolina governor Pat McCrory ignored a deadline imposed by the U.S. Justice Department to refuse to enforce HB2—the controversial “bathroom bill” that blocked city and local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections. McCroy sued the federal government, accusing the Justice Department of “baseless and blatant overreach.” The Justice Department responded by suing North Carolina for discrimination.

In a statement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch—who gave an impassioned speech on transgender equality this week—said, “there is not room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex.”

Though it does not impose any new legal requirements, the guidance clarifies expectations for schools to comply with Title IX, which requires schools receiving federal funding to ensure that no person is subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex. The Obama administration is also releasing a 25-page document with specific suggestions on “ways schools can make transgender students comfortable in the classroom and protect the privacy rights of all students in restrooms or locker rooms.”

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffen heralded the administration’s directive. “This is a truly significant moment not only for transgender young people but for all young people, sending a message that every student deserves to be treated fairly and supported by their teachers and schools,” Griffin said in a statement.

In recent years, the Obama administration has thrown its support behind the LGBT community. Earlier this month, President Obama indicated plans to declare the Stonewall Inn—site of the legendary Stonewall Riots that kickstarted the modern gay rights movement—a national monument. Still, if history (and North Carolina) is any indication, we still have a long way to go in eliminating gender discrimination.

Elizabeth Preza is an AlterNet staff writer focusing on politics, media and cultural criticism. Follow her on Twitter @lizacisms.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama returns to the White House in Washington after a visit to Flint, Michigan, to address that city’s water crisis, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan