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

California SB 132 Would Allow Trans-Identified Male Inmates to be Housed with Females

Feminists in Struggle, a nationwide feminist organization, strenuously opposes SB 132, a bill in the California legislature, “an act to add Sections 2605 and 2606 to the Penal Code, relating to corrections,” which would allow males who identify as transgender to be housed with the female population. This bill if enacted poses a grave risk to actual women, who comprise 52% of the general population and a growing percentage of the prison population.  SB 132 has already passed in the Senate and is due to be voted on imminently in the Assembly.

While we support and understand that the intent of this bill is to protect vulnerable trans-identified people, the actual result of this legislation would:

  • Allow ANY incarcerated male to CLAIM that he has a feminine “gender identity.”
  • Give any such incarcerated male the legal right to be housed at a women’s facility, even if he has been convicted of violent or sexual crimes against women.

This is a serious concern since studies indicate that males who transition retain the same patterns of male violence and criminality. A long-term study in Sweden found transwomen were 6 times more likely to commit any crime, and 18 times more likely to commit a violent crime, than female controls, and showed no evidence that identifying as a woman or undergoing sex reassignment surgery reduces the risk of male violence.  In the general population, violent crime is much more common among men than women, also putting women at much greater risk if males are housed with females.

To allow any male to claim a trans identity, with no biological requirements whatsoever, opens the door for sexual predators of various types, from voyeurs to rapists, to reinvent themselves as female by taking on female names and identities. Add to this the reality that the majority of female prisoners have been molested, raped, sexually assaulted, trafficked, coerced or forced into pornography and/or prostitution, and the potential harm to incarcerated women and girls is greatly increased if SB 132 becomes law.

It is unacceptable to endanger females in this way. Sex-segregation has long existed as a principle in human rights law, for reasons of privacy, safety, and dignity. We believe the onus must be on those seeking to change or abolish these principles to prove that doing so will not result in harm. Authors of SB 132 have not taken the requisite steps to provide such proof that SB 132 will not result in harm to female prisoners.

Additionally, where transgender self-ID policies have been allowed, such as in the UK, women have been raped, and assaulted. See: transgender inmate sexually assaults female prisoners; complaints from female prisoners leads to transgender prison wing; female prisoner files lawsuit for rape.

As written, this bill would violate the privacy, dignity, and safety of vulnerable women in prison.  We encourage feminists and allies to urge the California Assembly to vote NO on SB 132.