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The “Civil Rights Uniformity Act” Is Trying to Write Trans People Out of Civil Rights Protections

Just in case any transgender Americans manage to survive the Senate’s horrifying “health care” bill, Republicans are going after them in the House of Representatives. Representatives Peter Olson (R-TX), Brian Babin (R-TX), Ralph Lee Abraham Jr. (R-LA), and Vicky Jo Hartzler (R-MO) have introduced H. R. 2796, the “Civil Rights Uniformity Act of 2017” – and it’s a nasty, transphobic piece of legislation.

The act is very explicit about what it intends to do. It wants to forbid the federal government from interpreting any protections against gender discrimination as also applying to trans folks. It wants to retroactively redefine inclusive civil rights protections as being non-inclusive.

The bill reads: “The purposes of this Act are— (1) to prevent the executive branch from unilaterally rewriting Federal civil rights laws by enacting or implementing any policy or undertaking any enforcement action that is based on construing the term ‘sex’ or ‘gender’ to mean ‘gender identity’; and (2) to ensure that gender identity is not treated as a protected class in Federal law or policy without the affirmative approval of the people’s representatives in Congress.”

In short, they want to ensure that the executive branch can’t take any steps to protect transgender citizens. According to this bill, only Congress can pass a bill which includes or recognizes them. Guess I must’ve missed the part of the Constitution that designates “transgender rights” as the exclusive purview of the legislative branch!

The bill continues, just in case its exclusionary intent wasn’t already clear.

“In determining the meaning of any Federal civil rights law, and of any related ruling, regulation, guidance, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ and their equivalents shall not be interpreted to mean ‘gender identity’ or its equivalent, and the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and their equivalents shall refer exclusively to a person’s genetic sex.”

A.K.A. in addition to pretending that trans people don’t deserve civil rights protections, this bill also pretends that intersex and non-binary people don’t exist. You’ll notice that the writers of the bill don’t define what they mean by “genetic sex” – and that’s because it’s famously difficult to define, with numerous factors involved. And many of these factors aren’t easy to check, even the supposedly “definite” and “binary” differentiators like chromosomes.

(For instance, I’m an AFAB cis woman myself, and I have zero accessible confirmation that I’m XX. Like, it isn’t exactly on my birth certificate or license. Nor should it be. So am I supposed to let the government run a DNA test any time I want to qualify for Title IX protections? To file a workplace discrimination lawsuit? Even if the bill wasn’t disgustingly transphobic, it would still be highly impractical and expensive to enforce. How does one “prove” one’s “genetic sex”?)

Lastly, the bill explicitly forbids extending any “protected class” protections to transgender people. “No Federal civil rights law shall be interpreted to treat gender identity or transgender status as a protected class, unless such law expressly designates ‘gender identity’ or ‘transgender status’ as a protected class.”

These affected civil rights laws include Title IX, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and “any other Federal law or provision thereof prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.”

This bill tries to frame the Obama administration’s use of Title IX to protect trans students as some sort of radical re-imagining of the law – but conservatives are the ones doing the rewrite. They want a protection that was intended for women – all women – to suddenly only apply to some women. They want housing and discrimination protections which were meant for all Americans to suddenly only apply to some Americans.

This is an aggressive, reactionary piece of legislation that assigns the power of interpretation exclusively to Congress, even though a schoolchild could tell you that’s not how the checks and balances work.

I know we’re already calling our senators about the “health care” bill, but be sure to tell your reps to vote a loud and determined “NO” on this one. Let them know that we’re all watching how they respond to attacks on trans people. This bill’s supporters think they can get it passed because (1) it will excite their transphobic base, and (2) they don’t think enough cis voters will care when Congress attacks their trans neighbors.

For once, let’s prove them wrong.

(Via Congress.gov; image via Shutterstock)

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