Editorial: Republicans behaving badly

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday April 26, 2023
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was one of 219 Republicans who voted for a bill to bar trans women and girls from female sports teams. Photo: AP
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was one of 219 Republicans who voted for a bill to bar trans women and girls from female sports teams. Photo: AP

Last week's House passage of an anti-trans sports bill is an example of how Congress has changed since Republicans took control in January. Thankfully, the bill, which would bar trans women and girls from playing sports on female teams at schools that receive federal funding, has no chance of passing in the Democratic-held Senate or being signed by President Joe Biden. Still, it's a reminder that congressional Republicans are mimicking efforts by their state legislative colleagues to promote fear of trans people and inciting bullying and intimidation, both online and in real life.

The White House issued a statement April 17 that the administration "strongly opposes" House Resolution 734, the "Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023."

"At a time when transgender youth already face a nationwide mental health crisis, with half of transgender youth in a recent survey saying they have seriously considered suicide, a national law that further stigmatizes these children is completely unnecessary, hurts families and students, and would only put students at greater risk," read the statement. "Discrimination has no place in our nation's schools or on our playing fields."

Additionally, the administration has already proposed a Title IX rule change that would disallow blanket bans on trans students playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, although it would allow restrictions on trans students' participation on team sports but those must be supported by evidence and minimize harm to trans students.

The 219-203 vote on HR 734 was along party lines but it underscores the real risk ahead of the 2024 presidential election that could see the Republicans gain more House seats and take control of the Senate, which the Democrats control by a single seat. On Tuesday, Biden formally announced his reelection bid in a campaign video (see related story), reiterating statements he's made that "the battle continues in the face of extreme MAGA Republicans who are focused on taking away Americans' rights and dividing the country."

One only has to look at former President Donald Trump's rants on trans issues to know it would be a frightening time to be LGBTQ in this country if he becomes the GOP nominee and wins. Back in February, he unleashed a tirade in a video, promising a sweeping rollback of trans rights if he retakes the White House, including a ban on gender-affirming care.

Of course, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential GOP nominee, has, for the last year, declared war on LGBTQ people and drag artists in the Sunshine State, as the Bay Area Reporter has extensively reported. His administration recently expanded the "Don't Say Gay'' law to now prohibit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades up through high school, and he continues to try and intimidate venues that have hosted or provided services for drag shows by going after their liquor licenses. The rest of the field of potential and actual Republican presidential candidates is no better.

Conservative politicians' efforts to demonize trans people, drag artists, and others in the LGBTQ community just pander to their base — Trump's base, if we're being specific — and do nothing to advance the country or help anyone. In much of the U.S., particularly in red states, the LGBTQ community is tormented and discriminated against, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and attempts at suicide.

The Republican Party used to stand for small government; now it wants to go big — control reproductive rights of people, how people choose to identify, and what they can do in both public and private places. It's too bad that these same conservatives don't work more on controlling who can purchase guns; many of them don't even bother with the useless "thoughts and prayers" statements anymore because mass shootings have become routine.

Biden is right when he says there is a threat to democracy now. Look no further than Tennessee, where two elected Black state representatives were expelled because they spoke out on gun violence in a state that has done little to address it. Both Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones were quickly sent back to the Statehouse by county commissions that reinstated them. (A third state lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, who is white and who joined Pearson and Jones in denouncing gun violence, survived expulsion by one vote.)

And now there is a situation in Montana, where state Republican lawmakers have persisted in forbidding Democratic transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from participating in debate for a second week. They just cut her microphone, as the Associated Press reported this week. Her offense was that she told Republican lawmakers that they would have "blood on their hands" if they banned gender-affirming medical care for trans youth. In fact, she's right. Some trans kids in the state are terrified to come out, as they told Zephyr during a news conference she had outside on the Capitol steps, according to the AP story. On Wednesday, she was censured and banned from the House of Representatives for the rest of the legislative session, according to reports.

These unprecedented attacks on duly elected state lawmakers by their own colleagues are unacceptable. But equally repugnant are all of these anti-LGBTQ bills that seek to strip dignity and identity from queer people. That anti-trans House bill may not have a chance of actually becoming law, but the mere fact that congressional Republicans put it forward just to score cheap political points with their homophobic and transphobic supporters is an example of the threat to democracy that we're now living with.

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