President Obama has had enough with far-right wing efforts to demonize transgender Americans with their discriminatory “bathroom” laws. His administration has announced they will be issuing a sweeping a decree mandating every public school in the nation to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that they feel comfortable with, no matter what their state-assigned “biological” gender might be.
While the Department of Education does not have the power to force schools to obey, the threat of lawsuits or federal funding cuts is implied in the decree. “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence” said Education Secretary John B. King.
Two states – Mississippi and North Carolina – currently have passed discriminatory bathroom bills that force transgender Americans to use public restrooms that correspond to their “biological” gender. Six other states have attempted to pass similar bills but have not yet succeeded in doing so. The latest crusade by religious extremists is spearheaded by a smear campaign that paints transgender Americans as predators lying about their genders to assault women and children in bathrooms – an entirely baseless claim.
Two billionaire brothers, fracking moguls Dan and Farris Wilks, are behind the campaign, orchestrated through a hate group called the Liberty Counsel – a group you might know better as homophobe Kim Davis‘ lawyers. A CBS investigation found that the Liberty Counsel has placed lawyers in all fifty states in order to help draft and pass anti-LGBT legislation in response to the Supreme Court ruling and have written the laws currently in place in North Carolina and Mississippi.
The Justice Department has ruled that North Carolina’s bathroom bill, HB 2, violates the Civil Rights Act, but this decree sends a poignant message to the rest of the country. The Republican legislature of Kansas, who just proposed a bill that would make it much harder to change one’s gender on their birth certificate without proof it was wrongly recorded at birth, should take note. These vicious attacks by religious fanatics against America’s most vulnerable minority are a disgrace to the values of tolerance and inclusiveness that our nation was founded on, and we applaud the President for taking a concrete stand against this kind of disgusting bigotry.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.