Two steps forward, two steps?

T-Notes

by Robbi Cohn    
Published: October 18, 2008 in Opinion, T-Notes

Within the past four weeks, two events point toward significant progress in the fight for trans equality. The first comes as a result of the District of Columbia District Court’s finding in the case of Schroer v. Billington. We spoke of Ms. Schroer previously this summer in the context of of U.S. House hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Schroer’s contributions as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces were marked with honor along with accolades for the caliber of her service. Before she fully actualized her gender diversity as a trans woman, she had been considered and hired as David Schroer for a position with the Library of Congress. Immediately after the job offer, she approached her prospective supervisor and apprised her that she was a trans woman and would be living heretofore, full time, as a woman. The offer was summarily rescinded.

The court held that the Library of Congress had violated Ms. Schroer’s constitutional rights in two ways, under the aegis of Title VII protections. The first case of discrimination was based on the illegality of gender-based stereotyping; the second was grounded in the use of gender as a factor in the treatment of employees, including, but not limited to, hiring, firing and promotions.

There has been no word yet of an appeal by the Library of Congress, but groups espousing hateful rhetoric regarding gender issues have lost no time in adding their vitriol to the mix. Focus on Family, the Traditional Values Coalition and the Liberty Council have already issued statements.

Mat Staver, Liberty Council founder, stated “This is why there needs to be sanity within our legal system with regards to this homosexual agenda, which will literally undermine the whole concept of law and the rule of law.”

Staver added, “And it also underscores why we need judges on the bench who will judge and not legislate their own ideology.” (Thanks to Autumn Sandeen for the quotes).

This federal court decision is potentially a big toe in the door toward ending gender-based workplace discrimination for trans individuals, but the aforementioned groups are determined to keep bigotry and intolerance in play.

In another jurisdiction, the Maryland Supreme Court held that the Elections Council of Montgomery County must disallow the petition to put the axing of previously-passed gender-inclusive protections on the November ballot. This decision had more of a procedural argument as its raison d’etre, but even in this case, the court stated that legislative initiatives towards broadened interpretation of civil rights protections could neither be railroaded nor undermined by groups who used poor methodology in the pursuit of intolerance and bigotry.

This holding represents a decisive defeat for groups such as the Maryland Citizens for Responsible Government and the outside money of the Alliance Defense Fund, which cooperated in the proceedings both legally and financially.

Citizens for a Responsible Government not only used an incorrect figure as a threshold for signatures it needed to obtain, but additionally duplicated signatures, browbeat citizens with a fear campaign based on the bathroom issue, and attempted to infuse shock and awe by sending one of its minions into a health club locker room, a man dressed in drag, who terrified unwitting members with its campaign of fear. The court saw through the sham of CRG’s campaign, however, and dismissed the ballot measure.

By all appearances, one might have thought this to be the end. Just as in Schroer v. Billington, the zealots have refused to cease spreading their smear and fear agenda.

According to Washington, D.C. TV station WJLA 5, “The Alliance Defense Fund is asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the law from going into effect, arguing voters have been unconstitutionally denied the opportunity to vote on the measure.”

It has been previously reported that groups such as the ADF, TVC and Focus on Family had not only hoped that the decision in Montgomery County had been the reverse, and that gender based protections had been tossed out, but were prepared to use this in their campaign to make marriage equality unconstitutional, to undo any protections already in place protecting lesbians and gays, and to ensure that gender identity would never be covered in civil rights legislation.

The two question marks in the title of this article are the next pieces in the puzzle. Conservative Christian groups have signed on, both in Gainesville, Fla. and in Hamtranck, Mich., to dismantle gender-identity protection legislated by local city councils. They have support of local and non-local entities, many with ample funding possibilities, and all with one mission: to destroy the aforementioned liberal homosexual agenda, which pervades modern culture.

These battles affect the entire spectrum of LGBTQI, etc. identifying populations. Those who choose to put forth an agenda of hate, fear, intolerance, marginalization and disenfranchisement are not in the majority.

What they lack in numbers, however, they more than amply compensate for with the level of their vitriol. Every blow against their empire serves to undermine that agenda. Schroer v. Billington, Jane Doe, et al, v. Montgomery County Board of Elections and hopefully positive results in Gainesville and Hamtranck this November will help to serve as death knells for that kind of thinking.

— You can email any comments, criticisms or corrections to robbi_cohn108@yahoo.com.