President Trump’s latest anti-LGBTQ move to stoke his base two weeks before the midterm elections may backfire.
As protests unfold in front of the White House and across the country, in Philadelphia, a “Rally for Trans Existence and Resistance”’ in LOVE Park Oct. 23 brought the community out in solidarity and outrage with signs reflecting the Twitter hashtag: “We will not be erased.”
According to a memo obtained by the New York Times, the Department of Health and Human Services is determined to establish a legal definition of gender under Title IX, the federal civil-rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance.
A draft of the memo reviewed by The Times indicates that the “proposed definition” would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, immutable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” The Times wrote of the memo.
Local politicians were quick to state which side of the fence they were on, led by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mayor Jim Kenney.
Kenney was vehement in his denunciation of Trump’s latest attack and forceful in his defense of the trans community and other gender-nonconforming people.
“The City of Philadelphia does not support this hateful and discriminatory attack on transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals,” he said. “This proposed change is an extension of the Trump administration’s continuing efforts to tear our communities apart by marginalizing and erasing non-cisgender identities. The Trump administration has consistently targeted marginalized communities and has worked to strip away their basic human rights.”
In a call for solidarity, Kenney added, “The City of Philadelphia stands with you and we will fight back against any discriminatory acts towards members of our LGBTQ communities. Trans rights are human rights.”
Casey, a longtime LGBTQ ally, was quick to assert both his support for the community and his belief that most Americans wouldn’t tolerate the Trump proposal.
In an interview with PGN, the senator reiterated the need to enact the Equality Act as protection for the LGBTQ community, saying, “You’ve got to be very specific about protected classes — just like we do in any kind of civil-rights legislation.”
Casey said demographics will eventually create change.
“Most folks — even very conservative and right-wing folks — in their own lives and families, they’re running into family members, friends and other people in their lives who are LGBT. It’s just life.”
Chrissy Houlahan, who is running for Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District, told PGN she was stunned by the memo.
“The entire assault on transgender people from beginning to end by this administration has just been terrible,” she said. “I can’t understand what wickedness generates all these assaults. I am speechless.”
Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Rue Landau said, “The Trump administration’s proposed policies are cruel, dangerous and discriminatory. We want to be loud and clear: Transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people will continue to be protected in Philadelphia. Under our city’s civil-rights law, people have been protected from discrimination based on gender identity for over 16 years.”
There are an estimated 1.4-million trans women and men in the U.S.
Throughout the past two years of his administration, Trump has repeatedly voiced his support for so-called religious-freedom laws that support discrimination against lesbians and gay men and refute the gender identity of trans people outright. Trump’s two U.S. Supreme Court picks, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are staunch originalists who have shown a bias against LGBTQ Americans in their legal briefs.
Under former President Obama, the legal concept of gender was expanded to include choice — that is, allowing those who identify as trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming to do so legally and therefore be a legally protected class.
The Trump administration memo appears to advocate a reversal of the nation’s steady move toward embracing gender identity as legally protected.
At press time, national news outlets reported that the proposal is still in its early stages and that current law is being followed. Vanita Gupta, who worked in the civil-rights division of the Justice Department under the Obama administration, and now serves as the head of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement that the proposal “defies the medical community, science, civil-rights laws, the courts and the dictates of human decency” and that civil-rights groups would utilize “every tool” to keep this action from becoming law.
Adriana Fraser contributed to this report.