Coalition for the Feminist Amendments submits written comments to the Judiciary Committee

Our Coalition made a concerted effort to contact the Senators on the Judiciary Committee to press for an opportunity to testify at the Judiciary Committee hearing in order to present a feminist and LGB perspective on the Equality Act and the need to amend the bill. However, feminist voices critical of female erasure were not to be found. Abigail Shrier was the only witness that exposed the bill’s threat to women and girls, without throwing in right-wing talking points like “religious freedom” or opposition to abortion. However, two of our Coalition members, Callie Burt, and Lynette Hartsell, were able to submit written testimony.
Below is testimony from Lynette Hartsell of LGB Alliance USA. The testimony of Callie Burt can be found here.

Re: Testimony of M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA and the Coalition for Feminists Amendments– Equality Act: AMEND AND PASS

March 17, 2021

The Honorable Richard Durbin
Chair, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The Honorable Charles Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Dear Senators Durbin and Grassley,
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to present this written testimony regarding the Equality Act.


LGB Alliance USA is part of an international group of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals living in the United States. We define ourselves in terms of same-sex sexual orientation. Sex, not “gender.”
The Coalition for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act (CoFA) is a national alliance of individuals and organizations representing feminists as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
We support many of the positive provisions put forth by the Equality Act. Federal statutory protections for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals based on sexual orientation are long overdue.

However, the Equality Act’s attempt to protect transgender-identified individuals from discrimination—by redefining sex to ”include sexual orientation and gender identity,” and by replacing “sex” in civil rights laws with “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity),” creates ambiguity, confusion, and introduces a conflict between the sex-based rights of women, long acknowledged in the law, and claims recently being raised based on gender identity as a rationale for overriding separate provisions. The Equality Act as written then enshrines as law this premise that self-declaration of one’s gender identity takes primacy over biological sex.


Clearly, sex is not “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”
Merging two distinct groups—who possess different sets of experiences and needs, as well as unique histories of discrimination and marginalization—is detrimental to preserving human rights protections currently afforded to females as a uniquely subjugated class.

More importantly, “gender” or “gender identity” is conflated with “sex” throughout the bill without clearly defining either term. The term “gender identity” is subjective in that it describes a state of mind that may or may not be manifested in dress, grooming, or behavior, and is generally based upon discriminatory sex stereotypes that feminists have been working to abolish for decades. This subjectivity opens a loophole ripe for abuse and provides no objective test useful to a court, which will ultimately litigate the conflicts sure to arise from this legislation.


As written, the Equality Act erases sex as a protected class in law, weakening protections as well as undermining the existing rights of females as a unique class and will erase the progress women have made toward achieving equality with men.


By eliminating sex as a protected class, the bill as currently written would:
• Undermine targeted remedies for the exclusion or under-representation of women and girls in education as well as in jobs and professions traditionally held by men
• Eradicate competitive women’s sports by undermining Title IX protections
• Make it impossible to track (and remedy) disparity between the sexes, such as the pay gap and domestic violence, which is overwhelmingly male violence against women
• Prevent the gathering of accurate crime, health, and medical research statistics


It is not necessary to erase or redact sex in the law in order to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and gender non-conforming people, whether trans-identified or not; in fact, to erase or obfuscate the definition of sex renders it impossible to address sex discrimination or to protect sexual orientation.


These conflicts must be addressed. Failure to do so will threaten long-settled statutory and case law developed to protect the rights of females as a distinctive class. Our amendments provide a solution.


Like the Equality Act, the Feminist Amendments expand civil rights laws to cover lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender-identified people, and other individuals who don’t conform to gender stereotypes (social roles traditionally imposed based on one’s sex), while continuing to uphold sex-based protections. In doing so, everyone’s concerns and rights to privacy are protected.


The Feminist Amendments eliminate “gender identity” and instead establish two new categories in civil rights law: “sexual orientation” and “sex-stereotyping.” Doing so more effectively protects all classes, including transgender-identified people, without negating sex-based protections.  These amendments contain clear definitions of “sex” and “sex-stereotyping” that will preserve female facilities and programs, allowing women and girls to participate fully in public life.


At the same time, the Feminist Amendments protect lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and all people who don’t conform to imposed gender roles and stereotypes—including transgender-identified people—from discrimination in employment, education, housing, credit, jury service and in places of public accommodation.
These amendments also allow for the establishment of “gender-neutral” (mixed-sex) facilities for individuals who may feel safer or more comfortable in such spaces, so long as the availability and access to female-only facilities is not diminished. Thus, these amendments allow each protected class to continue to make progress toward achieving true equality.

Female-only facilities, groups, and spaces are an important legacy of women’s organizing, key to the protection of the female sex against male-pattern violence and to the broader participation of women in public life. It is vital that these basic human rights provisions remain in place.


Male-pattern violence against females is so well-documented that Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in an attempt to protect women and girls from sexual and physical assault. However, such predatory violence remains pervasive as demonstrated by the “Me Too” movement and numerous well-documented instances of such violations by males in the entertainment business, the military, and even Congress. A Swedish study showed that this pattern of behavior is not mitigated by male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.


Moreover, the current bill’s “gender identity” provisions require that males who identify as women, including those with intact male genitalia (85-90% of males who identify as women retain male genitalia), must be admitted, solely on the basis of “self-identification,” into female facilities such as rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, prisons, hospital rooms, communal showers, changing rooms, restrooms, and nursing homes.


Social scientists and international policy bodies have underscored the importance of maintaining separate statistics based on sex as a key means of tracking disparities between the sexes, recording accurate data, and measuring our progress on addressing sex-based discrimination. In addition, there are multiple instances, such as within the context of healthcare and medical research, where maintaining accurate information about a person’s sex is vital, even life-saving.


One hundred years after women’s suffrage, women are still paid less, are denied equal opportunities in the workplace, and continue to be underrepresented in many fields and positions of economic and political leadership in our society because of their sex. Females still suffer disproportionately from domestic violence and rape because of their sex.


The world is watching. Will the United States remain a leader for women’s rights and the rights of the LGB community, or will Congress replace biology and science by redefining sex to include fictions created on the fly by anyone, at any time, for any reason?
I respectfully submit the above to the Judiciary Committee and request that this document and the Feminists Amendments  be included in the record for consideration by the Committee.

M. Lynette Hartsell, LGB Alliance USA
Co-Chair of Coalition for Feminist Amendments
Cedar Grove, North Carolina
US-lgb-alliance@protonmail.com
@LGBAlliance_USA

The Killing of the Equal Rights Amendment

The amazing lawyer from Equal Means Equal, Wendy Murphy, sent FIST the article below on the killing of the ERA by an Obama-appointed Judge and the Biden Administration. She also links the fight for the ERA to the overall struggle to defend women’s sex-based rights against our threatened erasure by transgender ideology. We need to unite and organize even harder as feminists to turn around these attacks on our rights.

 

WHY DID AN OBAMA-APPOINTEE JUDGE KILL THE ERA?

By Wendy Murphy

March 15, 2021 

An Obama-appointee federal judge killed the ERA during Women’s History Month. Let that sink in.

It was a monumental decision that had many scholars scratching their heads trying to understand why a liberal judge with the power and opportunity to establish women’s constitutional equality for the first time in history, would instead rule against women. 

On March 5 Judge Rudolph Contreras from the United States District Court for the D.C. District, determined that the Equal Rights Amendment was invalid because it was not ratified in time. He said that a congressionally imposed ratification deadline had expired decades ago, which rendered recent ratifications by several states meaningless. His ruling killed the ERA, though some women’s groups think the ERA can be revived by having Congress pass a law removing the deadline. A hearing in the House of Representatives on a bill to do just that is scheduled for the week of March 15, but scholars uniformly agree that Congress has no authority to retroactively fix or remove a deadline that no longer exists. In 1978 when the first ERA deadline was about to expire, Congress proposed a law to extend it for three more years. During hearings on the bill, all the scholars who testified said Congress had to take action before the deadline expired or they would forever lose authority to affect the deadline. In other words, Congress has no power to change a law that no longer exists.

Even if Congress passes such a law, it will be voided by another federal judge before it leaves Capitol Hill. Judge Contreras stated in his ruling that he was expressing no opinion on how he might rule if Congress were to pass a law removing the deadline, but he was very clear that the validity of such a law would be decided by the courts, not Congress. Judge Contreras’ anti-ERA ruling leaves little doubt the judge who rules on the deadline removal bill will quickly rule that expired deadlines cannot be revived by an act of Congress.

Neither party supports women’s equality, but the Democrats fake it better. If Democrats actually supported the ERA, Judge Contreras would have validated the ERA simply because he could. At a minimum, he could have included in his opinion a discussion of why women need equality, and how not having full equal protection rights causes women to suffer high rates of violence, etc. Having a federal judge acknowledge the purpose of the ERA and the suffering women endure because they are unequal would have been helpful. But he said nothing.

Judge Contreras wasn’t required to discuss much less rule against the ERA. He had determined at the outset of his decision that the Plaintiffs – Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia – had no standing to file a lawsuit. When a judge finds no standing, there is no reason for that judge to then discuss the merits of the case, but he gave us his opinion on the deadline anyway. In other words, Judge Contreras went out of his way to invalidate the ERA when it would have been easy for him to say nothing at all or uphold it. Here’s why.

The Plaintiffs argued that the ERA deadline was not valid because it was placed in the ERA’s preamble (introductory section) rather than the text of the ERA itself. This is important because Congress only recently started putting deadlines in preambles. For a very long time in this country there were no deadlines in any amendments, and when Congress started imposing deadlines, they placed them in the text because the States have a right under Article V of the Constitution to participate as equals with the federal government in deciding whether to amend the Constitution. The States cannot participate as equals when amendments contain important language in preambles because the States can only ratify amendments; they have no authority to vote on language in preambles. Only if a deadline is placed in the text can States decide for themselves whether they want their equal ratification rights restricted by a time limit.

When deciding whether the placement of the ERA’s deadline in its preamble rendered the deadline unconstitutional, Judge Contreras analyzed whether Congress itself had doubts about the constitutionality of placing the deadline in a preamble. If they did have doubts, Judge Contreras could have invalidated the ERA deadline on the grounds that its constitutionality was not clear at the time it was imposed. But Judge Contreras said Congress had no doubts. 

He was wrong.

Judge Contreras said Congress “did not expect that changing the location of a deadline [from the text of an amendment to its preamble] would affect the deadline’s effectiveness.” Op. p.31.

In fact, Congress did have doubts because no court had ever before ruled that Congress could place a deadline in a preamble. It was an issue of first impression, which means the judge had enormous leeway in deciding whether to uphold the deadline because there was no binding precedent forcing him to rule a certain way.

This is exactly the type of case where a judge’s values make a difference. A judge who sincerely believed that women deserve constitutional equality would have seized the opportunity to rule against the deadline simply because no existing law or court ruling compelled him to rule otherwise.

Here are the facts Judge Contreras ignored – that he could have and should have relied on to rule that the ERA deadline is not valid because Congress was not confident that placing a deadline in a preamble was constitutional.

Imposition of ratification deadlines began relatively recently with the 18th Amendment in 1917 and have been imposed only a handful of times. Most of our amendments had no deadline at all. A deadline was imposed on the 18th but not the 19th Amendment. And the placement of deadlines has been inconsistent. Some were placed in preambles, while others were placed in the text.

When Congress was proposing to add a deadline to the preamble of the 20th Amendment in 1932, some members of Congress objected on the grounds that placing it in a preamble would be “of no avail” as it would not be “part of the proposed constitutional amendment.” 75 Cong. Rec. 3856 (1932). Congress thus placed deadlines only in the text of the next three amendments.

It was not until 1960 that Congress first placed a deadline in a preamble, claiming a need to “declutter” the text. But if decluttering the text were truly the goal (rather than limiting States’ rights by restricting the time they have to ratify) why would Congress have “cluttered” the text of the ERA with procedural matters such as delaying the ERA’s effective date for two years after ratification? It makes no sense that the States were able to vote on whether the ERA should have a two-year delay in enforcement after ratification because that language was in the text, but States were not able to vote on whether their Article V rights should be restricted by a congressionally imposed ratification deadline because that language was in the preamble.

As recently as 1978, Congress placed a deadline in the text and the preamble of an amendment, indicating they remain dubious about the constitutional legitimacy of placing deadlines in preambles. 92 Stat. 3795 (1978).

All these facts were excluded from Judge Contreras’ ruling killing the ERA. Women have a right to know why a judge would ignore such important information in a case of monumental importance to half the population in America.

Judge Contreras justified his decision by saying that “if Congress can dictate the mode of ratification” in the preamble, “then it should be able to dictate a ratification deadline in the same fashion.” This makes no sense. “Mode of ratification” refers to whether the ratification process occurs by State conventions or State legislatures. Congress may dictate which of these modes is used because Article V of the Constitution explicitly gives Congress this power. Article V does not give Congress the power to restrict States’ rights by limiting the time they have to ratify an amendment. To the contrary, the Framers were clear that amendatory powers must be shared equally between the national and state governments and allowing Congress to dictate how long the States have to ratify an amendment is tantamount to giving Congress sole authority to decide when our Constitution is amended – in blatant derogation of Article V.

This was one of the most important women’s rights legal controversies ever, yet a judge who easily could have declared women fully equal persons under the law declined to do so, and he based his decision on incorrect facts. His ruling prevented women from achieving equality and effectively changed Article V by stripping the States of their vital right to participate in the amendatory process as equals. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a judge willing to disregard women’s equal rights was willing to disregard States’ equal rights, too.

That Judge Contreras was appointed by President Obama matters because a judge women would expect to uphold the ERA and condemn our Constitution’s pervasive and embarrassing subjugation of women, did the opposite. The good news is women can now see that our only hope for fixing the Fourteenth Amendment and achieving full equal protection rights is the establishment of our own Women’s Party – or similar form of union-like organization whose sole purpose is to give women the leverage they need to force one party or the other to do the right thing. This is how women won the right to vote. They formed their own political party and established their own newspapers because neither the media nor either political party supported them.

A new Women’s Party or like organization need not focus on the ERA per se. Indeed, in light of recent efforts to change the meaning of the word sex and erase the very idea of women’s existence as a biological and political class by collapsing sex and gender, and making gender mutable, militates in favor of focusing energy instead on initiatives and laws to affirm the definition of sex and the reality of womanness. Without sex there are no women, and without women there can be no political activism on behalf of women. This is not complicated. The fight for equality is now a fight against women’s invisibility. We cannot play by the rules when we don’t exist in the rules. Most mainstream women’s groups are proxies for the Democratic Party; they will never protect sex and sex-based rights. We need a new movement with incorruptible nonpartisan leadership and a laser-focus on maintaining and growing the enormous potential and power of biological and political sex.

Women Picket DC Event on International Women’s Day

 

Feminists in Struggle endorsed and attended the Women Picket DC Event organized by members of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign on March 8th to protest Biden’s Executive Order eroding women’s sex-based rights and his abysmal handling of the ERA, and to proclaim that woman=adult human female and the oppression of women is based on sex, not gender ‘identity.’

Sisterhood is powerful!

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day marks the second anniversary of the founding of Feminists in Struggle.  We have accomplished a lot in two short years, despite living through a pandemic this past year.  We have connected with other radical feminists, grown our organization and our network, and raised awareness and educated women with our Feminist Forums on topics such as defending women’s spaces from male violence, the ERA, the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, reproductive rights, and women’s sports.

We face more challenges ahead, fighting to preserve female-only spaces and programs that are our lifeline, demanding that the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act be adopted; working to get the ERA finally enshrined into the Constitution; defending abortion rights against the forces of the Religious Right and a conservative Supreme Court which is on the precipice of reversing Roe vs. Wade; fighting against pervasive male violence and the exploitation of our bodies and the glorification of prostitution and commercial surrogacy; dealing with the desperate poverty and greater burdens imposed on more and more women; and defending our right to think, speak, and organize as a sex without being threatened with violence or being fired from our jobs.

The good news is that we women, half the human race, the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters of all of humanity, subordinated by males through many millennia, are beginning once again to awake from slumber.  And once we open our eyes and find our voices, no one can shut our eyes or silence us.

The radical feminist movement that FIST is building along with many others is still small but we are now everywhere, in every corner of the globe. We are growing, and compared to a few years ago, more and more of us, despite the threats against us, are speaking out. Today there was a protest in Washington DC against Biden’s female-erasing Executive Order and to demand our sex-based rights. FIST was there, carrying our banner.  There are weekly international seminars by the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (of which FIST is a proud member) every single week, drawing 400 women from many countries; the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights now has over 15.600 individual signatories, from 129 countries, in collaboration with 314 organizations; the ERA was ratified; the LGB Alliance was launched; Argentina legalized abortion; legislation protecting women’s sports is being introduced in legislatures; and lawsuits are beginning to be filed by de-transitioners like Keira Bell.  The tide is beginning to turn.

And while it is not surprising that many of us are feeling battle weary, overwhelmed by the seemingly endless reach of our two enemies–those who would erase us and those who would enslave us, or feeling deeply saddened and demoralized by the sight of so many young girls mutilating their bodies and denying their sex, we need only remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants, suffragists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Christabel Pankhurst, and Alice Paul; and our sisters of the Second Wave, some we have lost like Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, and the many others still marching shoulder-to-shoulder with us.  They never gave up. Neither should we!

FIST reaches our hands across generations and in solidarity with all women fighting for our liberation, so we no longer feel so alone.

Please join us! We can do this, sisters!

We Urge the U.S. Senate to Amend the Equality Act

We urge the U. S. Senate to amend the Equality Act by adopting the provisions in the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act.  We fully support the Equality Act’s goals of ensuring that LGBT people are protected from discrimination, harassment, and violence. These protections are long overdue. However, the bill as currently written would eliminate sex as a protected category under federal law — a move that would have dire consequences for the sex-based rights of women and girls. This redefinition would also erase the basis for same-sex attraction, undermining the very protections for sexual orientation that the Equality Act claims to enshrine.

Eliminating sex as a protected class, as the Equality Act currently proposes, would mean removing the ability of the law to ‘see’ sex — including sexual orientation — and thus remove the ability of the law to address injustice, discrimination, and inequality rooted in sex and sexual orientation. By making self-declaration what determines whether someone is considered male or female, the Equality Act would radically remake US law, making gender self-identity the criteria for accessing all female facilities, being housed in female domestic violence shelters and prisons, competing in female sports, representing female people, and defining ‘same-sex’ orientation.

Sex, gender, and sexual orientation refer to different characteristics, different experiences, and refer to distinct groups with different needs. These differences matter. And the law—and our lawmakers—should not pretend otherwise. In settings where sex matters, the law needs to make it clear that how a person identifies is not conflated with nor should it override biological sex. In settings where sexual orientation matters, sex must be the basis on which same-sex attraction is defined. That’s why the language has to be clear.

For these reasons, we urge the Senate to take a closer look at the Equality Act, hold hearings and support sensible amendments to the Equality Act so sex remains a recognized and protected class under law. We support amendments that would protect sex (biological sex), sexual orientation, and sex-role nonconformity separately, as put forward in the Feminist Amendments . It is simply not necessary to redefine sex in the law in order to protect transgender and other gender non-conforming people from discrimination and harassment, as the Equality Act seeks to do. The Feminist Amendments provide a more equitable way forward that protects everyone’s rights.

We also urge you to call for an open dialogue as we navigate these complicated issues and seek to develop protections that will work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as women and girls. Unfortunately, the process so far — including previous iterations of the Equality Act introduced and passed in the House of Representatives, and the House moving directly to a floor vote without further inquiry — have not met this standard, failing to consider potential unintended consequences of erasing sex in the law and shutting out the perspectives of lesbian, gay, and bisexual advocates. The current Equality Act is not the product of democratic debate and public inquiry but of policy capture, written by lobbyists working out of the public view. This is part of a worldwide lobbying effort that tethers radical changes — the erasure of sex in the law — to popular and necessary reforms like extending protections for LGBT people. Equality for LGBT people doesn’t look like this.

We believe that we can and must amend the Equality Act to protect the human and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to safety, dignity, and freedom from discrimination while preserving the sex-based rights of women and girls and the ability of the law to ‘see’ sex. Please help facilitate an open dialogue about how the Equality Act can best advance the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, with a full airing of how the rights of other protected classes, especially women and girls, will be affected.

For more information, see the video: Preserving Sex-Based Rights