Federal civil rights law protects Americans against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion.
But there is nothing in the law that protects people against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Legislation we strongly support, The Equality Act, which was passed by a bipartisan vote of 223-206 in the House in February, would change that. It would expand civil rights protections to this group of Americans left out in the cold.
But now the bill faces long, perhaps insurmountable, odds in the Senate, largely due to an argument being made by Republican opponents that, frankly, is of little consequence in the real world. They warn that transgender girls would participate in female athletics and have an unfair advantage.
A question: Have you seen much of this at your local high school? And if you were to, now and again, would it be the end of the world?
Or should we focus instead on what really matters here: extending full civil rights protections to every one of us?
The Equality Act would provide anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life such as employment, housing, credit, education and in federally funded programs.
Typical of the arguments made against the bill are those of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, who warns that allowing transgender women to compete against cisgender women — a term used for people who identify with the sex assigned to them at birth — would “decimate” female athletic competition. Testosterone, that is to say, would win out.
How the issue has played out in real life, though, says otherwise.
The International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to compete for years under specific parameters, the Associated Press reports, and, to date, there have been no known transgender women compete in the Olympics. Only one known transgender woman has competed at the Division I level in the NCAA.
“The answer to this latter question, are trans athletes winning everything, is simple — that’s not the case,” Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, told NPR.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says he has been waiting for an “avalanche of problems” — describing the GOP’s argument — to surface, but they haven’t.
“No American should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love,” Durbin told the Sun-Times. “Republican claims of transgender girls having an unfair advantage in sports is a discredited and shameful distraction to score cheap political points. We should not punish LGBTQ Americans — including LGBTQ kids — for simply living their lives.”
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