Metro Weekly

Anti-transgender group runs ads attacking Democratic candidate for Nevada governor

Nevada Parents for Safe Schools attacks Steve Sisolak's support for transgender nondiscrimination policies in schools

Photo: Nevada Parents for Safe Schools, via Facebook.

A recently created Facebook page is claiming that Steve Sisolak, a Clark County Commissioner and the Democratic candidate for governor of Nevada, supports allowing teenage boys to shower with girls.

The group, Nevada Parents for Safe Schools, focuses much of its energy decrying policies that allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

“SO WRONG! Steve Sisolak supports letting high school boys shower with your daughter! Steve Sisolak is wrong for Nevada children and 100% wrong for Nevada!” the post featuring the ad reads.

The Clark County School District recently passed a policy in August that directs school administrators to develop plans uniquely tailored to the needs and concerns of individual students who are transgender or gender-nonconforming.

Under the policy, transgender students may use facilities consistent with their gender identity, facilities that match their biological sex, or may develop their own individualized plan for restroom and locker room use, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal

The policy currently aligns with Nevada’s law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, as well as with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s rules, which treat transgender students according to their gender identity.

According to Facebook’s political ad database, the ad has been seen 10,000 to 50,000 times and has been shared 896 times. 

In another post, the group rails against pro-transgender nondiscrimination policies, writing: “When schools move to implement gender policies that violate kids’ rights to privacy and to free speech — as they are attempting to do all across this nation — there are basic, reasonable questions that school administrators, state boards of education and school district boards are NEVER ASKED.

“Questions you pose at a school board meeting can range from something very simple, like: What is ‘gender identity?’ to something more complex, like: Why should private spaces correspond to feelings instead of biological sex?” the second post continues.

While no group named Nevada Parents for Safe Schools is registered with the Nevada secretary of state, a PAC called “Parents for Safe Schools” was registered with the state in October by Charles Clement and Karen England, reports The Nevada Independent.

Clement’s wife was a lobbyist for Nevada Right to Life and the Pro Life League of Nevada during the 2017 session of the Nevada Legislature, and England is the executive director of the conservative Nevada Family Alliance, which pushed a bill during the 2015 legislature that would have limited bathroom access for transgender students. That measure eventually failed. 

Sisolak faces off against Attorney General Adam Laxalt, an opponent of LGBTQ equality, in the general election.

Sisolak denounced the “Nevada Parents for Safe Schools” ad, refusing to run away from his support for members of the  LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ youth.

“@AdamLaxalt and his cronies are replacing the bigoted dog whistle with a megaphone,” he tweeted. “An enemy of the trans community is an enemy of equality, and your silence speaks volumes. Desperate political appeals to bigotry have no place in our nation. Denounce it. We’re waiting.”

The Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Sisolak, also responded to the attack, denouncing the ad for spreading misinformation and playing on people’s prejudices (as well as misgendering transgender youth). 

“These ads are egregious, hateful and not representative of who we are as a state,” HRC Nevada State Director Briana Escamilla said in a statement. “Time and time again, in races across the country, we’ve seen that hate is a losing political strategy, yet far right, sham organizations continue to latch on to LGBTQ discrimination and demonize the transgender community to stir up votes. It won’t work.

“Nevada voters overwhelmingly support LGBTQ equality and won’t stand for these false attacks and smear campaigns against their friends, family and neighbors.”

HRC is currently engaged in its “HRC Rising Campaign,” which seeks to motivate more than 600,000 “Equality Voters” — people whose vote can be influenced by a candidates’ stance on LGBTQ rights issues — and get them to the polls to give Sisolak and other pro-LGBTQ candidates a boost in November’s upcoming elections.

The organization previously denounced the Laxalt campaign in July for pandering to social conservatives through attack ads deriding Sisolak’s support for the LGBTQ community.

“Adam Laxalt’s obsession with attacking the LGBTQ community has always been both morally repugnant and politically perplexing,” Escamilla said at the time, pointing to Nevada’s generally pro-LGBTQ laws. “From his opposition to protections for LGBTQ youth facing discrimination at school, to pushing ‘license to discriminate’ policies, to his attempts to rip health care away from thousands of Nevadans, Adam Laxalt is the antithesis of Nevada values.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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