The Increasing Divide
So now that Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton, and his recruited cohort of allies, have opened legal fire on the so-called “normalization” of transgender lives, the longstanding agenda of groups like the Family Research Council (openly published on their website, but not in the spotlight until now) has been implemented and the court and political battle is joined. Sadly, we cannot presume to have the advantage in this war which we have not chosen but is upon us.
Paxton’s first suit, a dog & pony show that was filed in a handpicked courthouse 300 miles from the state capital, where Paxton knew a sympathetic judge would give him the outcome he wanted, was decided at the initial stage in his favor. I refer to it as political theater because he challenged the Letter of Guidance issued by the Departments of Education and Justice in May which was, by it’s own prominent admission, not legally binding and was in fact a response to a REQUEST for guidance by the Association of Secondary School Principals. How can you ask a court for an injunction against a non-binding letter? But he did, and his sock-puppet judge issued it (how, too, can a single district judge issue a nationwide injunction? I still don’t know how THAT works).
Encouraged by the obedience of his pet judge, Paxton almost immediately filed again challenging the regulatory choice to apply Title IX to the ACA to require trans people to not be denied care based on sex. He’ll no doubt get another sham decision which will, as the first, need to be appealed beyond Wichita Falls (albeit, the Fifth Circuit is no picnic).
Meanwhile, across the country in Virginia, an obstinate local school board insists the Supreme Court consider where Gavin Grimm should have been allowed to urinate (n the past tense because Grimm will be graduated before any outcome can be applied). A liberal SCOTUS justice extended them the courtesy of preserving the status quo (something no conservative would have done) while the matter is resolved, and while the court is evenly divided owing to the empty chair, there’s a huge risk for trans people if the case goes onto the docket before the seat is filled. As it stands, pre-trans lawyers are faced with the task of convincing Anthony Kennedy to come over to vote with the liberals. This is a real consequence for trans people of the Senate’s refusal to seat President Obama’s appointment to the court keeping it divided evenly. In short, Republican culture war politics are a direct and severe threat to our interests in equality.
Meanwhile, on the street things are rapidly shifting in our favor. Though it is often difficult for us, as individuals to see it in our daily experiences, polls inform us that attitudes are shifting. A recent national survey finds 53% of Americans now say they oppose laws requiring bathroom usage segregated by sex assumed at birth, and only 35% say they support such laws. Nearly 2/3 of Democrats oppose such laws, while an equal number of Republicans say they oppose them as say they favor them. Also, 72% of respondents favor broad non-discrimination laws covering LGB/T people in housing and employment as well as public accommodations. Sadly, 80% think such laws already exist (albeit, not in an uproar about it, it seems).
Taken together, it illustrates that the GOP is engaged in pandering to an increasingly narrow, but passionate, component of their core base while risking alienating, or willing to try to sway, other segments of the electorate. This is only likely to work in areas dominated by white evangelicals however, these people hold office and therefore have the political power to wage this war until they are otherwise. The outcome is far from certain.
Photo by: Matt Turner