Metro Weekly

Transgender lawmakers condemn Tuberville Amendment, urge passage of Equality Act

National Transgender State Legislators Caucus speaks out amid continued political attacks on transgender community

Clockwise, from top left: State Rep. Briana Titone (Photo courtesy of Briana Titone), Del. Danica Roem (Photo: Julian Vankim), State Rep. Gerri Cannon (Photo: Facebook), State Rep. Taylor Small (Photo: Facebook), State Sen. Sarah McBride (Photo: B Proud), State Rep. Lisa Bunker (Photo: Facebook) and State Rep. Stephanie Byers (Photo: Facebook).

Seven of the eight out transgender people currently serving as state lawmakers have released a joint statement condemning Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) failed attempt to force school districts to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, while also urging lawmakers to pass the Equality Act.

The Tuberville Amendment, which was defeated on a 50-49 vote on Saturday during a “Vote-a-rama” on a White House-backed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, would have withheld federal funding from states, school districts, or universities that allow transgender females to compete in their gender identity. 

The National Transgender State Legislators Caucus, which is comprised of all the out transgender state legislators in the country, released a statement denouncing the Tuberville Amendment and likening it to similar legislation that has been introduced in nearly two dozen other states.

“In recent weeks, federal and state legislators have launched attacks against their student constituents for simply being transgender kids who want to play sports,” the caucus members said in a joint statement. “Similar attacks were made on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in the form of a cruel and discriminatory amendment proposed by Senator Tuberville to the current federal $1.9 trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief package specifically designed to help the American people recover from unprecedented economic and social hardship.

“…If [the amendment] was adopted, Senator Tuberville would have potentially subjected girls — cisgender and transgender alike — to humiliating and traumatizing searches of their anatomy by adults in order to prove whether their reproductive systems were female enough for them to count as girls,” the statement continued. “This amendment was designed to force state and local educational organizations to discriminate against transgender students, requiring them to deliberately act in violation of federal civil rights laws. It would have also negated the successful systems in place in more than a dozen states that welcome all student athletes to participate in sports and learn the leadership, confidence and self-respect that comes from playing on a team.

“We should be promoting the examples set in states that have taken action to be more inclusive and welcoming, not regress toward exclusion.”

In addition to praising the 49 Democrats and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) who voted against the amendment, the legislators also called out those who voted for it, notably calling out Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) for bucking his own party to “single out and stigmatize” transgender student-athletes.

See also: Historic number of out LGBTQ candidates elected in 2020

“Supporting amendments that further perpetuate the fear-based stigma and discrimination of transgender people is not only wrong, but against the inherent values of the great state of West Virginia,” Wheeling City Councilor Rosemary Ketchum, who although not part of the caucus, is the first out transgender elected official in the Mountaineer State.

Wheeling Councilor Rosemary Ketchum – Photo: Facebook.

“In Virginia, we’ve seen the successful implementation of transgender-inclusive policies from the Virginia High School League to allow all students to play sports during the last six years,” Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who spearheaded the letter, said in a statement. “We’ve also seen that during that time, the Virginia General Assembly has gone from being one of the most hostile state legislatures in the country toward LGBTQIA+ people to becoming a national leader in equality. I’m grateful for the progress we’ve made and I’m hopeful trans kids throughout the Commonwealth and country know they’re welcomed here in Virginia because of who they are, not despite it.”

In addition to Roem, other transgender lawmakers signing onto the letter include Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride, Colorado State Rep. Brianna Titone, Kansas State Rep. Stephanie Byers, New Hampshire State Reps. Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon, and Vermont State Rep. Taylor Small.

New Hampshire State Rep. Stacie Laughton, who was first elected in 2012 but never served, was recently elected this past November and began serving earlier this year, making her the eighth out transgender person elected to a state legislative body.

The letter only includes signatures from officials who identify specifically as transgender. However, there are also three other non-cisgender state legislators currently serving in the United States: State Sen. Mike Simmons of Illinois and State Rep. Joshua Query of New Hampshire, who identify as gay and gender-nonconforming, and Oklahoma State Rep. Mauree Turner, who identifies as queer and nonbinary.

See also: Conservatives turn on gay Trump supporter Richard Grenell after pro-trans tweet

The transgender lawmakers have also called on U.S. senators from both parties to learn the errors of their ways and vote for the Equality Act, a comprehensive nondiscrimination rights bill that would extend protections to LGBTQ people in various aspects of their lives.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote, but faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate, where at least 10 Republican senators must vote to end debate on the bill before it can pass. Many of the attacks lodged against the bill have focused almost exclusively on the alleged effect that transgender participation in sports will have on the ability of cisgender women to succeed in sports.

Charlotte Clymer, a writer, LGBTQ advocate and consultant who is transgender, has described attacks on transgender participation in athletics as the newer version of “bathroom bills” that were all the rage in Republican-run legislatures a few years ago. Clymer told Metro Weekly in a recent interview that social conservatives have fixated on athletics because it allows them to exploit the wider public’s lack of knowledge about biology and physiology as it relates to transgender women.

As a result, she said, “it’s much easier for the public to be misled into believing that there’s this very immediate threat to the safety of girls and women” if transgender athletes are allowed to participate in the gender by which they identify.

Cognizant of the attacks being lodged almost daily on their community, the transgender legislators concluded their letter with a plea to sitting senators.

As state legislators, we share a commitment to constituent service, working to better the lives of those we represent each day,” the letter reads. “Supporting equality is constituent service; this means protecting and welcoming all of our student constituents. We call on the U.S. Senate to swiftly bring the Equality Act to the Senate floor for a vote to pass this critical legislation. We urge our state colleagues to pass legislation that helps all of our constituents, including those who are LGBTQIA+, instead of attacking the very people we are all elected to serve.”

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