White House Warns State Legislatures That Passing Anti-Trans Bills Is Illegal

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Originally appeared at: Washington Blade

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, reiterating “trans rights are human rights,” warned state legislatures Friday that passing bills targeting transgender youth is against the law.

“The president believes that trans rights are human rights, and that no one should be discriminated on the basis of sex, not only is this the law of the land, it’s his own deeply held view,” Psaki said.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County determined anti-transgender discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workforce under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Although the ruling didn’t purport to address sports, the logic behind the decision has broad applications to all laws against sex discrimination, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Laws seeking to target transgender youth would seem to flout the Bostock decision as well as the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Psaki also invoked the executive order Biden signed on his first day in office seeking to implement the Bostock decision, making it clear it applies to students in the context of bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports.

Also during the briefing, Psaki addressed the Equality Act, legislation to expand the ban on discrimination against LGBTQ people under federal law. The House passed the legislation but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Asked by the Blade whether Biden will reach out to lawmakers on the Equality Act, Psaki predicted that would be the case.

“It certainly is a piece of legislation, the president supports as you all know, and he discusses a range of his priorities with members of Congress — the House and the Senate — and I’m certain when given the opportunity he will advocate for the passing of it,” Psaki said.

Washington Blade: The House has sent the LGBTQ Equality Act to the Senate, where it will be one of several bills that faces an uncertain future. Will the president reach out to lawmakers on the Equality Act?

Jen Psaki: It certainly is a piece of legislation the president supports, as you all know, and he discusses a range of his priorities with members of Congress — the House and the Senate — and I’m certain when given the opportunity he will advocate for the passing of it.

Blade: And I know you’ve been asked about the legislative filibuster this briefing already but I would like you to address it as it pertains to this specific bill. Isn’t there a reasonable expectation that the president strongly supports this bill that he would want to welcome — the end of filibuster to see it get to his desk?

Psaki: The president’s position hasn’t changed. He looks forward to advocating for the passage of legislation that he supports and working with Democrats and Republicans together.

Blade: And finally who at the White House is coordinating the approach to the Equality Act?

Psaki: Well, certainly, our legislative team approaches — oversees the approach to any piece of legislation working its way through Congress but they tap into resources across the building as would be expected.

Blade: But is there one person who is specifically charged with focusing on the legislative —

Psaki: On the legislative team? We just don’t read out specific staffing responsibilities publicly but I can assure you that with any piece of legislation, there are a range of individuals in the building who were asked to make calls to write policy, to write talking points, to reach out to outside groups. It’s a coordinated effort internally.


Blade: A number of state legislatures are advancing legislation seen as imposing additional restrictions on transgender youth, including those that would inhibit their ability to participate in sports and access transition-related care. One such bill is on its way to the governor of Mississippi’s desk, if not signed already. Has the president expressed any concern about these, these bills in state legislatures?

Psaki: The president’s view is maybe not well known but let me restate it here. I’m not aware of discussions directly with state legislatures, state legislators. If he had had those discussions, you might would likely know, I should say.

But the president believes that trans rights are human rights, and that no one should be discriminated on the basis of sex, not only is this the law of the land, it’s his own deeply held view.

The anti-discrimination executive order the president signed is focused on children being able to learn that worrying about whether they will be discriminated against and this means not being denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports, and him signing executive orders sends a pretty clear message to state legislators to lawmakers about where he stands on this issue and what his position is as president.

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