House Democrats are set to vote this week to advance H.R. 5, the so-called “Equality Act,” which transgender advocates are hailing as a landmark piece of civil rights legislation. It is almost certain to pass the full House, though it is unlikely to gain much traction in the Republican-led Senate.
The legislation — including its tedious “findings and purpose” section — reads like it was written by a college sophomore in gender studies. It isn’t clear why Democrats are so desperate to pass it. While progressives might claim that the Equality Act is an LGBT rights bill, it reads much more like a men’s rights bill, which understandably has some feminists asking, “Et tu, Nancy?”
Think I’m exaggerating? Consider this: the Equality Act would fundamentally redefine “sex” within all aspects of civil rights law to mean “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” scrapping the traditional legal standard of male and female as a product of biology and replacing it with an incomprehensible mess. The many legal protections women now enjoy would be effectively eliminated, resulting in a version of “equality” that many of the Equality Act’s supporters might not be anticipating.
Take, for example, Title IX, which was passed to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs. One of the biggest impacts of the 1972 law was to increase scholarship and athletic opportunities for women, opportunities which are now often taken for granted thanks to the wide availability of women’s sports at the high school and collegiate levels.
These opportunities are now under attack — in 2016, the Obama administration sent a wake-up call to female athletes across the nation when it announced it was interpreting “sex” under Title IX to include “gender identity,” allowing any student who claimed to identify as female the right to participate in women’s sports.
While President Trump revoked that policy, the Equality Act would permanently write it into the law, effectively erasing the gains made under Title IX and all but destroying women’s athletics.
In case you think I’m being ridiculous — after all, these newfound rights under the “Equality Act” would only apply to “trans women” and not “cisgendered” (biological) men — understand that the term “gender identity” is scarcely defined in the legislation, deliberately left so vague as to be almost meaningless. Indeed, while the law provides strict definitions for “sexual orientation,” limiting protections to people with heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual orientations, it does no such thing for “gender identity.”
One could theoretically choose to identify as whatever gender one desires, for however long or short a period, no matter how ridiculous or without medical grounding, and still expect the law to protect that identity.
It’s not difficult to see how this could lead us down a path to absurdity. For example, couldn’t a student athlete claim to have a temporary gender identity that only manifested itself when, perhaps, that athlete stepped on a track before a race? What would prevent a “cisgendered” (biological) boy from exploiting the law, changing nothing about the way he presents himself, but claiming to identify as a girl for the purposes of athletic competition?
The answer is, of course, absolutely nothing. Even if a school had the guts to deny him a place on the girl’s team — foolishly exposing themselves to the liability of an expensive civil rights lawsuit — a judge would be forced to recognize that “gender identity” is a subjective term, and that a boy seemingly exploiting the system would be no different legally than a boy with gender dysphoria who truly psychologically identifies as a girl. The Equality Act doesn’t even require an individual to make a legitimate claim of “gender identity” in good faith. It really is all up to how the individual claims to feel in the moment — and for that reason, it is incredibly easy to exploit.
The effect of this is obvious: Title IX would become a relic of a different era, as would many other protections currently enjoyed by women. The triumph of “gender identity” would wipe out women’s private spaces, giving biological males free rein to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms, and showers. It would force battered women’s shelters to open their doors to any man identifying as a woman, potentially putting the abused women who truly need that safe space in jeopardy. In short, it would be a complete and utter disaster for women.
At the same time, seen from a different perspective, it would be a near-total triumph for men’s rights. Meninists rejoice! After decades of ruthless oppression at the hands of women, men will finally enjoy the equality they so richly deserve, as nearly every special legal protection for women is systematically demolished.
In an ironic way, if passed into law, the “Equality Act” may end up living up to its name after all.
Jon Schweppe (@JonSchweppe) is the director of government affairs at the American Principles Project, a nonprofit think tank and political advocacy organization committed to defending the fundamental American principle of human dignity.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.