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

FIST on Joy of Resistance, WBAI Tonight!

Feminists in Struggle’s Ann Menasche will be interviewed on WBAI Radio’s Joy of Resistance show, 99.5 fm, tonight at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST) to discuss the Biden executive order on January 20th, collapsing gender identity with women’s sex-based rights, and to discuss the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act, the changes FIST would like to see made to the Equality Act, legislation passed by the House in 2019 (but not the Senate) that is likely to be reintroduced this year and considered high on the Biden agenda.

The write-up of the JOR show states that:

“Last week, the Women’s Liberation Front, put out a press release that was carried on the AP newswire entitled “Biden Executive Order on Gender Identity Will Eviscerate Women’s Rights”; the group Feminists in Struggle (FIST) issued a similar statement and The Women’s Human Rights Campaign started a letter-writing campaign in protest of this EO.”

The Joy of Resistance summary acknowledges that these groups are all considered left of center, with Feminists in Struggle strongly identified with the Left.  This is a refreshingly accurate characterization in view of attempts by many transactivists to smear any group that speaks out about gender ideology or the erasure of women as “right-wing” or even as “hate” groups.  FIST denounces such mischaracterizations, and has spelled out our distinction from the Right in our Principles, particularly in #12.

We greatly appreciate the Joy of Resistance show on WBAI, which features feminist content, and we recommend anyone who cares about the liberation of women listen tonight, and every Monday, at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST).  Please tune in!

There is also a demonstration in protest of this executive order planned on March 8 in front of the White House, and FIST members plan to be in attendance.  Join us!

Feminists in Struggle responds to Biden’s Executive Order

Feminists in Struggle (FIST), a national feminist organization, denounces the subjugation of female rights to those of transgender rights in the executive order signed by President Biden on his first day in office.

Women’s rights are included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act because female people have been and continue to be discriminated against on the basis of our sex.  We are disadvantaged in employment; we do not receive equal pay as compared to males for the same or comparable work; we are discriminated against in education and in sports.  Indeed, females have long been treated in patriarchal societies as lesser human beings because of our sex.  Every advance we have made has been on the basis of sex, NOT “gender identity.”

Of course, as feminists, we wholeheartedly agree that, “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” and that people should not be “fired, demoted or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.”  However, we cannot possibly achieve equal rights for everyone by taking away the rights of some, in order to enhance the rights of others. “Gender identity” should not be used as grounds for eroding the sex-based rights of those of us born female since we have not yet achieved full equality.

This executive order does just that, by erasing females as a distinct class of people who are still oppressed and discriminated against in our society based on our sex and in need of legal protection. We continue to need programs for women and girls under Title VII and Title IX to redress past wrongs and level the playing field, so that those of us born female have an equal opportunity to develop ourselves and pursue our dreams. We need female-only spaces and refuges for reasons of dignity, privacy, and safety, especially because male sexual and physical violence against women and girls remain pervasive.  Therefore it is crucial that “sex” remains a distinct category and that it is not conflated with “gender identity.”

We demand an executive order and an Equality Act that will protect everyone’s rights and not pit one group’s rights against another’s. FIST’s legal committee has drafted a model bill that incorporates Feminist Amendments into the Equality Act. Our Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act preserve women’s sex-based rights including the right to female-only spaces and programs while adding strong prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex stereotyping, Such provisions will fully protect lesbians, gay men, bisexual individuals, those who identify as transgender, and all gender non-conforming people without weakening the rights of females.

In addition, President Biden can make great strides toward equality for half the population born female by instructing the archivist to publish the Equal Rights Amendment (already ratified by the requisite 38 states) into the U.S. Constitution.  We urge that he do so immediately.

PRESERVING SEX BASED RIGHTS: FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT

The Equality Act (HR 5) that passed the House and is now pending in the U.S. Senate is positive in that it adds federal statutory protections for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from discrimination and eliminates the use of religious freedom claims to challenge civil rights obligations. However, the bill defines sex as including “gender identity,” putting at risk the sex based rights of women and girls. The Feminist Amendments, drafted by a committee of attorneys from Feminists In Struggle (“FIST”) and approved by the membership, eliminates “gender identity” and instead establishes two new categories for civil rights protection: Sexual orientation and Sex Stereotyping. The Feminist Amendments also preserve female- only facilities, services and programs for reason of privacy and safety and advance the status of women and girls. Under the Amendments, transgender people as well as all people who do not conform to sex stereotypes are also protected from discrimination.

Please join us for this fascinating discussion on Preserving Sex-Based Rights on NOVEMBER 14th at 1 pm PST and consider joining the Coalition effort to pressure Congress to amend the Equality Act!

Featured Speakers:

Ann Menasche – Feminists in Struggle and co-author of the Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act

M. Lynette Hartsell – LGB Alliance USA

Tina Minkowitz – co-author of the Feminist Amendments

Callie Burt – Associate Professor, Georgia State University, Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Center for Research on Interpersonal Violence (CRIV)

 

This forum is an interactive and organizing event. Attendees have an opportunity not only to hear interesting speakers but to meet each other, make comments, ask questions of the presenters, and discuss feminist politics together. We also tape the events with the tape only viewed by our FIST members. People in attendance are also free to shut off their cameras and mute themselves, should they prefer to do so. For the security of the event, we take attendance, and your name may be stated out loud. If you prefer to remain anonymous within the group, or plan to sign in under a different name from the name you have used for registration and purchase of your ticket, please contact the organizer prior to the event.

DON’T MOURN, ORGANIZE!

With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, we’ve lost an outspoken advocate for women who broke multiple barriers in the long fight to end discrimination on the basis of sex. Though she was no radical or revolutionary, she was in many ways both a product of decades of struggle for women’s rights as well as one of our most passionate proponents. And we have suffered this loss at a time when we are facing two enemies at the gate – one who will take advantage of this loss to swing the Court even more to the Right, putting in direct jeopardy Roe vs. Wade, lesbian/gay rights and the effort to finally enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment, already ratified by 38 states, into the U.S. Constitution in addition to disappearing sex as a protected class in language and in law in favor of “gender identity.”


Laws are passing in a number of states that will result in the most vulnerable groups of women–those escaping male partner violence, experiencing homelessness in shelters, or those who are in prison, having to share intimate congregate spaces with males. These women are poor, disproportionately women of color, and many have been victims of sexual and physical violence by men. Yet, women’s needs for privacy and a safe refuge from male violence and the ability to establish boundaries are being run roughshod over by an ideology that re-defines “women” and “men” as a set of stereotypes that a person of either sex can claim. Girls in middle and high school going through puberty are coming of age in a violently misogynist porn-soaked culture, are being taught that they are sexual objects that have no intrinsic value, that they have no right even to say “No,” as males enter their locker rooms and private spaces and take away their prizes and sports scholarships set aside for women and girls. No wonder so many girls decide that being female is not for them and ingest hormones and seek double mastectomies to ‘become men” or “nonbinary.”


And then there is the Equality Act that has already passed the U.S. House and is pending in the Senate that while providing long overdue statutory rights for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, would take away sex-based protections by redefining sex as “gender identity.” Even without the Equality Act, the Courts have already moved in that direction. While the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock ruled just this past June that employment discrimination based on an undefined “transgender status” was based in part of sex, the narrowness of the ruling did not prevent two lower courts from citing to Bostock to deny the existence of sex entirely. And though Title IX regulations explicitly allow separate bathroom and changing room facilities in schools based on sex, “sex” now has been redefined to mean “gender identity, ” with the Courts ruling that two girls who identified as boys that were denied access to the boys’ facilities were discriminated against based on “sex”.

In light of these developments, the approach taken by FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act remain essential. In order to avoid confusion and end subsuming the category of sex by “gender identity,” we need a bill with clear definitions of all the terms being used, and separate provisions protecting each class of persons, rather than merging distinct protections under the broad umbrella of “sex.” Rather than the amorphous and subjective concept of “gender identity,” people who do not conform to gender role norms should be protected from discrimination based on” sex stereotyping” whether they identify as transgender or not. Most importantly, we need a federal bill to spell out the rights of women and girls to separate spaces and programs.


FIST and the newly formed LGB Alliance USA are in the process of creating a broad coalition to advance the Feminist Amendments. Please sign on as an endorser and join the campaign!


Feminists across the globe including in the United States are starting to organize once again, asserting the primacy of our own rights and needs as a sex by demanding full civil rights protections under the law. We cannot let the courts, Congress, and state legislatures erode our sex-based rights, whether by restricting or outlawing abortion, eroding lesbian/gay rights, denying us the Equal Rights Amendment, or prohibiting female-only spaces, programs, and short-lists. The purpose of securing our rights is not to perpetrate discrimination of any kind; rather, it is to advance our status in society against continued systemic oppression based on sex.


Let’s honor the memory of RBG by committing ourselves to continuing the struggle for the sex-based rights of women and girls. DON’T MOURN, ORGANIZE!

WLRN Interviews FIST re FAEA

Our own Ann Menasche was interviewed on WLRN about FIST’s Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act.  To listen to the interview, go to:  WLRN Interview re FAEA

FEMINISTS IN STRUGGLE (FIST) LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR FEMINIST AMENDMENTS TO THE EQUALITY ACT

The current version of the Equality Act (HR 5) that passed in the House and is pending in the Senate (SB 788) is a double-edged sword for women. On the one hand, the bill expands civil rights protections for lesbians, gays and bisexuals, a cause for which feminists and lesbian/gay activists have struggled for many decades. The bill also adds protections against discrimination for some–transgender individuals–but not all people who do not conform to gender norms or stereotypes for their sex.  That too, is a good thing though it doesn’t go far enough since it fails to protect gender non-conforming individuals, including gays and lesbians and many feminists who do not consider themselves transgender.

On the other hand, the current legislation conflates sex with “gender identity” which effectively eliminates sex-based protections for women and girls.  It also explicitly requires that transgender identified males–any male who claims to be a woman–be admitted into women’s facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms.  That aspect of the current bill is equivalent to the self-ID law that was recently defeated in the UK.  It is extremely harmful to women and girls.

The harm of self-ID provisions is a result of the fact that women and girls are still oppressed and discriminated against as a sex class in our society.  We need programs for women and girls including under Title IX to redress past wrongs and equal the playing field, so that those of us born female have an equal opportunity to develop ourselves and pursue our dreams.   We also need female-only spaces and refuges for reasons of privacy and safety, especially because male sexual and physical violence against women and girls remains pervasive.

Feminists in Struggle are calling for the Equality Act to be amended rather than defeated. We demand a better bill that protects everyone’s rights and does not pit one group’s rights against another.  Our legal committee has drafted a Model Bill that incorporates Feminist Amendments into the Equality Act.  The Model Bill has been approved by the democratic body of our active FIST members, the Feminist Assembly.  Our version of the Equality Act preserves women’s sex-based rights including the right to female-only spaces and programs while adding strong prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex stereotyping. For example, under FIST’s bill all sex-based dress codes would become illegal.

Please join our Campaign for Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act! Let us know of your support.  And spread the word to all your contacts.  We know this is not going to be an easy struggle but neither was winning the vote. We in FIST believe that sisterhood is powerful and that together we can fight for our sex-based rights and win!

You may download a copy of the following documents:

Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act

Comparison of Original Equality Act and Feminist Amendments.02.07.20

TrackChanges.FeministAmendments.FIST

FAEA-Power Point Presentation

FAEA brochure

for more information on the FAEA (Feminist Amendments to the Equality Act)

WLRN Debate Between WoLF and FIST

Ann Menasche of Feminists in Struggle (FIST) and Kara Dansky of WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front) debate strategy regarding relationship with rightwing media and organizations on Women’s Liberation Radio News.  Click here to listen: Debate between FIST and Wolf on WLRN The discussion between Ann and Kara starts at 37:06 and goes to 1:22:36 of the full podcast.

Also featured on this podcast at 24:00 minutes is Julia Beck of WoLF testifying before Congress regarding the Equality Act and how it will eliminate sex-based rights and enable the continuation of discrimination based on biology, and Doriane Lambelet Coleman who spoke mainly to the chilling effects the Equality Act would have on women’s sports if passed.  Included in the podcast is some feminist music and news as well.