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Cynical GOP Laws Barring Transgender Youth From Sports Will Fail, But Kids Will Be Hurt Along the Way

Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

More than 250 bills seeking to limit the rights of LGBT people have been brought up or passed in state legislatures across the country this year.

Many target transgender youth by limiting access to gender-affirming medical care or prohibiting participation in school sports. Some seek to bar transgender people from restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Others focus on refusal-of-service under the guise of “religious liberty,” a transparent legislative attempt to allow businesses and organizations to discriminate against LGBT people.

On Wednesday, in a ruling that halted West Virginia’s attempt to ban transgender athletes from middle and high school female sports teams, U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin wrote eloquently about the state’s new law and the history those behind these laws so willfully ignore:

“A fear of the unknown and discomfort with the unfamiliar have motivated many of the most malignant harms committed by our country’s governments on their own citizens. Out of fear of those less like them, the powerful have made laws that restricted who could attend what schools, who could work certain jobs, who could marry whom, and even how people can practice their religions. Recognizing that classifying human beings in ways that officially sanction harm is antithetical to democracy, the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. It ensures that no state may ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’ Accordingly, the courts are most juberous of any law — state or federal — that treats groups of people differently.”

Fear is an operative word in that passage. Republicans are using fear — “fear of those less like them,” as the judge wrote — to rile up a subset of their base, wholly unconcerned with the havoc these cynical bills wreak on the psyches of young people and adults who want nothing more than to be fully and authentically themselves.

The plaintiff in the West Virginia case is Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old transgender girl who wants to compete on the girls’ track and cross-country teams at her school. She’s referred to in the judge’s ruling as “B.P.J.”

 

Goodwin wrote: “It is clearly in the public interest to uphold B.P.J.’s constitutional right to not be treated any differently than her similarly situated peers because any harm to B.P.J.’s personal rights is a harm to the share of American rights that we all hold collectively. The right not to be discriminated against by the government belongs to all of us in equal measure. It is that communal and shared ownership of freedom that makes up the American ideal.”

The same day Goodwin issued his ruling, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Arkansas blocked that state’s ban on gender-affirming care — such as hormones and puberty blockers — for transgender minors.

On July 9, a federal judge in Tennessee blocked a ludicrous new law that would have required business owners who allow transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity to post signs that read: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”

Displaying a predictable, or perhaps willful, ignorance of gender identity, Republican Rep. Tim Rudd, the bill’s sponsor, said during the legislative debate: “It’s very shocking and a danger to people if they walk into a restroom that’s marked men or women, and the opposite sex is standing there.”

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