Metro Weekly

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Defies Biden’s Transgender Protections

Gov. Sanders issued an anti-trans executive order demanding schools Arkansas ignore federal guidance on Title IX.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders – Photo: Gage Skidmore

Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has issued an executive order in defiance of new federal regulations seeking to protect the rights of transgender students.

At a news conference, Sanders announced that Arkansas schools would continue to enforce restrictions against transgender students, who will not be permitted to use pronouns or access multi-user bathrooms and locker rooms that don’t align with their assigned sex at birth.

The order declares that sex is an immutable characteristic, fixed at birth and rooted in a person’s genetic and biological makeup, and the government should preserve single-sex spaces and single-sex sports teams based on student’s sex.

The order also prohibits any student or employee of an educational institution from being forced to use pronouns that don’t align with a person’s assigned sex at birth, stating: “The right to refuse to speak a lie is guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

Sanders’s order mirrors similar laws denying recognition of transgender identity that have passed in other states.

It is inspired by Independent Women’s Voice’s “Women’s Bill of Rights,” a template that the right-wing organization has shopped around to encourage lawmakers to preserve single-sex spaces based on biological anatomy, and prevent individuals assigned male at birth from being legally recognized as female.

A similar measure was introduced in Congress two years ago.

Last month, the Biden administration issued new rules explicitly stating that LGBTQ students, and in particular transgender students, are protected from discrimination or harassment under Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination. 

Biden’s rules, which take effect August 1, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federally funded educational programs.

The explicit protections were added in order to align the rules with the principles undergirding a landmark 2020 Supreme Court decision finding that the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination, and that instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination are inherently a form of sex-based discrimination.

Since then, several states, including Oklahoma and Texas, have forbade local school districts from attempting to comply with the new rules.

At least 14 states have filed or joined lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX, arguing that the law’s references to “sex” should only apply to biological sex.

“Title IX was created to protect women,” Sanders, flanked by anti-transgender advocate Riley Gaines, said at the news conference. “But Biden’s Title IX attempts to erase women completely.

“If Biden gets his way,” she continued, “female college students will shower and change next to male college students. Referring to someone using biologically correct pronouns will get you hauled in front of a disciplinary board for harassment. Scholarships previously reserved for women will now be open to anyone claiming to be a woman.

“My message to Joe Biden and the federal government is that we will not comply.”

Sanders has said that if the Biden administration attempts to withhold funds from school districts that refuse to comply with the Title IX guidance, she will pursue lawsuits against the Biden administration.

Gaines, the Independent Women’s Voice Ambassador, praised Sanders as a “true champion of women,” claiming that the order would prevent sex discrimination, preserve female-designated sports teams, and protect the bodily privacy of cisgender women in multi-user facilities. 

Legislation similar to Sanders’s order has been passed in at least five other states, with four additional states expected to pass nearly identical restrictions on transgender legal recognition in the coming months.

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