Open Letter from Feminists in Struggle to the Interim Steering Committee of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA:  A Call for Unity among Radical Feminists in the Fight to Amend the Equality Act 

The Interim Steering Committee (ISC) of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) recently released the “Equality for All Act,” its own version of an amended Equality Act (EA). The EA is a bill pending in Congress that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” as protected sub-classes under the category of “sex” in federal discrimination laws.  Radical feminists agree that the current version of the bill undermines women’s rights.  We are glad to see that the movement has come together to support the idea of amending the bill, rather than calling for a “no” vote as WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front) appeared to do in previous Congressional hearings, and that we agree on several other important points regarding how the bill should be amended or rewritten.

We are also heartened to know that virtually our entire movement including the ISC has now taken a stand in support of including sexual orientation and sex stereotyping protections, separate from sex, in the Equality Act, and everyone also supports the closing of religious loopholes to civil rights enforcement contained in the original bill. However, we feel obligated to point out that the revision of the bill that the ISC has produced is less comprehensive and actually far less protective of the sex-based rights of women and girls than FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act that pre-date ISC’s version by more than a year.  We also must object to the undemocratic process that ISC has engaged in that excluded FIST as an organization from having a place at the table,  even though FIST is an early endorser of the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, expressed its desire to be part of a U.S. Chapter, and requested to be included in these discussions.

As many radical feminists and our male allies know, the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act were drafted by a FIST committee of three lawyers and approved following discussion and vote of the democratic body of active FIST members known as the Feminist Assembly. The FAEA, along with in-depth explanation of their necessity and the changes they make to the proposed Equality Act, can be read here: https://feministstruggle.org/faea/. We have several organizations on board as endorsers including the LGB Alliance USA, the Georgia Green Party, and XX Amazons and a total of 146 signers on our website.  We have formed a coalition that we have named the Coalition for the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (“CoFA”) which has already held several meetings. CoFA held a forum on November 14th in which more than 150 people participated, and just sent by U.S. mail a letter to all 100 members of the Senate urging them to support the Feminist Amendments.  That letter has been publicly shared at https://lgballianceusa.substack.com/p/amend-the-us-equality-act.

We believe that the approach of FIST’s Feminist Amendments is significantly more protective of sex-based rights than ISC’s draft bill for two reasons:  (1) the Feminist Amendments spell out that female-only spaces and programs do not constitute discrimination based on sex or sex stereotyping; and (2) the Feminist Amendments make robust findings about the subordinate status of women in society, the pervasive nature of male violence, and the need for women-only spaces and programs in the interests of achieving true equality for the female sex.

We want to emphasize that we do not see any principled differences between FIST’s and ISC’s two approaches to the Equality Act, only tactical and strategic ones.  We are all sisters (and brother allies) here in the same movement.  We need each other’s support, respect, and solidarity. Because to our dismay the door to dialogue between our two groups has been closed thus far, we can only speculate as to why the ISC felt compelled to create its own amendments, reinventing the wheel so to speak, as ISC’s draft bill in many respects mirrors our own, though a pared-down version of the original.  The only reasons we can come up with is our use of the word “transgender,” and the comprehensive nature of our approach that might have struck some as overly ambitious.

In our opinion, it is a serious mistake for the ISC Amendments to have failed to include a provision stating that the existence of female-only spaces and programs does not constitute sex or sex stereotyping discrimination.  Despite the fact that the Equality Act has not yet become law,  two federal appellate decisions have extended the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision to hold that it is discrimination based on “sex “ and “sex stereotyping” under Title IX to deny access to sex separated restrooms on the basis of “gender identity.”  The Feminist Amendments clearly define “transgender” (a sub-group of gender non-conforming people with a certain belief system that feminists reject) and strip the term down to size.[1]  We do not treat transgender in itself as either a class or a sub-class with special legal protections. Rather, while the Feminist Amendments do recognize the basic human rights of people who identify as transgender–the same rights that should be provided to all people who do not conform to sex stereotypes—the FAEA’s  definition of “transgender” and  inclusion of protection for female-only spaces and programs,  render the ideology harmless with respect to women’s sex-based rights under federal law.

We believe that if, on the other hand, we ignore transgenderism as the ISC does in its proposed bill, it will come back in far more dangerous ways. For example, the courts could continue to conflate sex and gender identity, decide to define “transitioning” to mean one can change his or her sex, and/or rule that denying access to female-only spaces for males who identify as women is discriminatory based on sex and sex stereotyping.

In the interests of developing greater unity and collaboration among radical feminists and our allies in the fight to amend the Equality Act, we make the following proposals:

  • That a dialogue be begun between representatives of CoFA and the ISC to explore the differences between our two proposals and whether or not it is possible to unite around the broader coalition effort supporting the Feminist Amendments;
  • If it is not possible to work together in support of the Feminist Amendments, that we discuss how best to approach members of Congress and the public in a way that is respectful of and does not undermine each other’s efforts.

In sisterhood and solidarity,

Feminists in Struggle

[1] The FAEA define “transgender” as follows:  “TRANSGENDER. –Transgender is a term adopted by a subset of people who do not conform to sex stereotypes commonly associated with their biological sex and who may hold a deeply personal sense of identity that conflicts with or denies their biological sex.”

6 Replies to “Open Letter from Feminists in Struggle to the Interim Steering Committee of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign USA:  A Call for Unity among Radical Feminists in the Fight to Amend the Equality Act ”

  1. Connie Hahn

    Would it not be of greater value to have multiple groups bombarding our Senate and Congress? It seems to me that is a much more strategic plan. I have lobbied for years and know that any amendment that might be considered, will most likely be changed numerous times as it makes it’s way through committee. Clearly neither version will end up as it is presented so having several versions to choose from is more powerful and not as easily dismissed.

    Reply
    • feminist struggle Post author

      Yes, Congress definitely makes numerous changes on bills, which is one reason we feel it would be better to have one set of amendments, with multiple groups and individuals promoting them, because otherwise it encourages Congress to make more changes, which we would want to discourage, as changes could make the bill worse, rather than better.

      Reply
  2. Dar Guerra

    Outstanding letter, thank you.

    “We also must object to the undemocratic process that ISC has engaged in that excluded FIST as an organization from having a place at the table, even though FIST is an early endorser of the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, expressed its desire to be part of a U.S. Chapter, and requested to be included in these discussions.”

    Why did WHRC exclude FIST while repeating much of its work?

    Reply
  3. FeistyAmazon

    Completely support your efforts Sisters, especially in regards to WBW spaces, and for femsles whether thry be in.prison, shelters, nursing homes or music festivals or other forms of housing and gathering.

    I in no way identify as feminine nor am I male or want to be, as a Butch Lesbian, hence do NOT call me Cis. Nor am I trans. Female proud Butch Lesbian, so accomodating all not het conforming women and men is important.

    Your definition of transgender sounds fairly good, as slippery as some of these terms can be( like genderqueer and all the rest).
    In.NO WAY should any male be allowed into women’s prisons, homeless or domestic violence shelters. Too many have taken advantage of the women and the situation.

    Th as nks for all your good work.

    Reply

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