Thursday, March 2, 2017

So, God Made you A Dick?

While the country waits for oral arguments (March 28th?)in the case of Gavin Grimm v Gloucester County School Board a host of opinionated groups are pressing their briefs on SCOTUS. The crux of the case is the question of whether title IX requires that states allow youngsters like the transgender Gavin to use the public bathroom conforming to their gender identity in order to receive federal education dollars. There is a lot of press surrounding this case, and much of it has addressed the question of bathroom safety, but the briefs I have read do not concern themselves with public safety.

The two major Amicus Briefs that seek to deny Gavin his rights each take different approaches. Several states –Utah included- have filed a “Brief of Amici Curiae” that reads like a prescription sleep aid in print. It argues that the implementation of the interpretation of title IX by the 4th circuit court was federal overreach as the feds should not be allowed to deny the states funding for the reasons the 4th circuit court gave. No mention of the rights of Gavin. I suspect SCOTUS will rule against Gavin on the basis of the dry inhuman arguments made in this brief, but my crystal ball is notoriously faulty.

Amici are the States of West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin and the Governors of Kentucky and Maine.”


The second approach was cobbled together by a set of religious groups.

Amici are the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; National Association of Evangelicals; the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; and Christian Legal Society.”


They insist that they can deny that transgender people even exist as an exercise of their religious liberty.

“Interpreting ‘sex’ to mean gender identity would generate conflicts with religious persons and institutions across a range of fronts. Major religious traditions— including those represented by amici—share the belief that a person’s identity as male or female is created by God and immutable.”


They insist that their voices be heard above others as they are “Major Religions”, and actually agree.This portion of the argument might have been better serviced if they mentioned some of the past instances of religious violence that occurred as a result of them not agreeing; that would make the fact that they agree sound more special. 

“But one thing is perfectly clear: sacred writings and official statements from several major religions—including those of amici—demonstrate remarkable unanimity on the origin and purpose of gender as immutable and divinely ordained.”


The religious brief is crafted to sound like it is arguing that the 4th circuit court title IX decision is a step in the destruction of religious liberty. Allowing Gavin to identify as a person with a different gender than that with which he was born is the problem, which bathroom he pees in is a simple manifestation of that. The problem is not uniquely with title IX, or government overreach.

Like many religious arguments the authors cannot stop at simply stating their case. They go on to suggest that letting Gavin pee in the wrong room would undermine their religious right to engage in all sorts of gender discrimination. This is, apparently, a gender equality issue as well as a gender identity issue.There is a religious need to treat females and males differently, and allowing someone to be transgender messes that up.

“We and other major religions agree that human beings are the creation of God; that He created them male and female; that to be male or female is an immutable characteristic; and that this characteristic carries certain attributes and responsibilities.”


“Gender identity “in large measure defines who we [LDS] are, why we are here upon the earth, and what we are to do and become.””


I think it is cute that the evangelicals go so far as to state that they will ignore the law. Doesn’t this mean that listening to what their opinion on what the law should be is rather unnecessary?

“No civil law can move the evangelical conviction that biology as male or female is a God-given aspect of human nature that should not be changed.”


In several places the religious amici interjects other aspects of their “Religious Liberty” crusade. They are clear that this is part of a concerted effort to marginalize anyone who shelters under the LGBTQ umbrella.

“All six contributors—religious and secular, left, center, and right—agree that same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty.” – Laycock (editor) 2008. Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts. As quoted in the religious brief.


If the 4th circuit court decision is overturned –even on the technicality proposed by the states' brief- it may allow states to legally stop recognizing transgender people in many aspects of society. Some of the more embolden states may stop recognizing certain marriages. We could see a policing of outdated policies on housing and employment. We could even see a re-affirmation of proper gender roles in employment and education.

The Religious Liberty crusaders have found their way into the federal government, and in an ironic desire to push the outer limits of government overreach will likely be implementing many socially destructive programs designed to reach into the most private aspects of a citizen's life. The vice president has suggested that sexual orientation can be cured, and conservative action groups -like the One Million Moms group- believe transgendered individuals should be medically cured. I wonder if congress will be able to find money to pay for providing these quack medical options to people that will lose their healthcare after the repeal of the ACA? They have reframed these discredited medical procedures as some sort of humanitarian aid: "helping confused individuals accept their wonderfully crafted and God-given biology".(One Million Moms 3/1/2017)"

I am actually at a loss to understand what the churches get out of filing their brief. Unless this is an important show of power that will trickle down onto more substantive issues it should be of no consequence where transgender kids pee. If it is a show of religious political power then winning will be much more important than what they are winning.  This issue has little to do with bathrooms.

It is rather impressive how many ways this could go wrong, and not just for young Gavin.













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