The House of Representatives voted 236-173 in favor of the “Equality Act” which seeks to bolster anti-discrimination language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. Currently, federal anti-discrimination law does not protect either gender identity or sexual orientation, though there are 20 states that do include language which protects sexual orientation.
The bill addresses discrimination ranging from housing to transportation to the extension of credit. In addition, the bill will change sports as we know them, by changing the definitions that are found in Title IX—the section of Federal code which relates to equal opportunity in schools.
Title IX is explained by The Department of Education, “Title IX applies to institutions that receive federal financial assistance from ED, including state and local educational agencies. These agencies include approximately 16,500 local school districts, 7,000 postsecondary institutions, as well as charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums.” The National Center for Education Statistics states that there are 13,588 “regular” public school districts. Those districts do not include, “regional education service agencies and supervisory union administrative centers, state-operated agencies, federally operated agencies, and other types of local education agencies, such as independent charter schools.”
Because most schools are not run by the state but are rather run locally—and accept federal funding—this means that essentially every public school district is subject to Title IX regulations. The guiding principle of Title IX states (with emphasis added) “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This would include athletics. The Equality Act would change Title IX to state:
“In titles II, III, IV, VI, VII, and IX (referred to individually in sections 1106 and 1107 as a ‘covered title’):
SEX.—The term ‘sex’ includes—
“(A) a sex stereotype;
“(B) pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition;
“(C) sexual orientation or gender identity; and
“(D) sex characteristics, including intersex traits.
(with respect to gender identity) an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.
GENDER IDENTITY.—The term ‘gender identity’ means the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
As far as sports go, the updated law, if passed, would allow genetic males to compete against genetic females or vice versa. It would also make “boys and girls” locker rooms a thing of the past. Three female athletes, Doriane Coleman (collegiate track star), Martina Navratilova (tennis player), and Sanya Richards-Ross (international track and field athlete) wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on April 29 to say, “We urge lawmakers to pass the bill without abandoning Title IX, the hugely popular, long-standing (since 1972) carve-out to existing anti-discrimination law. Through its implementing regulations, Title IX not only permits but often requires educational institutions that receive federal money to provide separate programs and opportunities for females based on sex. This is necessary because sex segregation is the only way to achieve equality for girls and women in competitive athletics.”
They went further in defense of existing Title IX language and stated, “Team USA sprinter Allyson Felix has the most World Championship medals in history, male or female, and is tied with Usain Bolt for the most World Championship golds. Her lifetime best in the 400 meters is 49.26 seconds. In 2018 alone, 275 high school boys ran faster on 783 occasions.”
Sports are not the main target of the legislation, and indeed, there are many reasons for the bill; although there are few hard statistics or no link given in the text of the bill. As an example, reason 15 states:
“National surveys, including a study commissioned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, show that housing discrimination against LGBTQ people is very prevalent. For instance, when same-sex couples inquire about housing that is available for rent, they are less likely to receive positive responses from landlords. A national matched-pair testing investigation found that nearly one-half of same-sex couples face adverse, differential treatment when seeking elder housing. According to other studies, transgender people have half the homeownership rate of non-transgender people and about 1 in 5 transgender people experience homelessness.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary where it will be considered before going to a full vote.
I find it somewhat distressing that the reasoning in the bill does not provide the original research that led to the creation of the bill. If this is the culmination of years of research and studies, why do we not have access to some of that research in the digital text of the bill? Surely a public document being weighed by our representatives, literally originating in the House of Representatives, could have some relevant information for us to look at, right? Specifically when it refers to a study that was commissioned by HUD as part of its reasoning but doesn’t provide the raw data of the study, opting instead to simply say “discrimination is very prevalent.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to suggest that it doesn’t happen. I would just like to know how prevalent “very prevalent” is. Are we talking about two property management companies? 15 towns? 30 states? In essence, is it such a big problem that this issue rises to the level of Federal law, or is it something that the individual states can address?
Maybe it does rise to the Federal level as far as housing, transportation, and access to credit go, but do we need to eliminate men’s and women’s sports as well? Representative Ilhan Omar said that the idea that men have a competitive advantage over women is a “myth.” A high school junior in Connecticut who runs with two transgender girls disagrees with Omar, stating, “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts; it’s demoralizing. I fully support and am happy for these athletes for being true to themselves. They should have the right to express themselves in school, but athletics have always had extra rules to keep the competition fair.”
I’m concerned that this interpretation of inclusiveness will discourage genetic women and girls (I believe the term is “cisgender” though a snippet from Bill Nye confuses me) from competing in sports. I’m worried that by altering the playing field, we are telling women that they have to be better than they physically can be and that they will always be at a disadvantage if they were born (assigned?) female, even if they are competing in a “women’s” sport.