One of President Joe Biden’s first acts after taking office was to sign an executive order addressing sexual discrimination within the federal government, but not everyone in the left-of-center realm of politics was happy with the decision.
Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation was generally praised by Democrats. Conservatives largely opposed it, as expected, but they have some atypical allies on the left who say Biden’s order is harmful to women. (RELATED: Biden Taking Executive Action To Address Racial ‘Equity’ — Two Orders Will Reportedly Undo Major Trump Policies)
The executive order cites the 2020 Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, which established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Previously, Title VII protected individuals from discrimination based on biological sex alone. The court ruled that, in matters related to employment, “sex” also means sexual orientation and gender identity.
Biden’s order goes further than Bostock and asserts that all federal agencies must interpret their rules and regulations regarding sex in the workplace to also include sexual orientation and gender identity as well. “It is the policy of my Administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII,” the order reads.
While the scope of Bostock was limited, Biden’s order will cover everything happening at federal agencies, from which bathroom trans individuals are allowed to use to whether or not a trans woman is housed in a male or female federal prison.
Congress could go even further by passing the Equality Act, which Biden has promised to sign into law within his first 100 days. The Equality Act would essentially enshrine Bostock into law while expanding its purview from employment to also include housing, public education and more.
A number of prominent individuals and organizations on the left came out in staunch support of Biden’s action. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applauded the order, saying it was “a salve after four years of relentless attacks by the Trump administration on LGBTQ people in all aspects of life.”
The LGBTQ lobbying group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called the order the “most substantive, wide-ranging LGBTQ executive order in U.S. history.”
“Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal,” read the statement from HRC President Alphonso David.
Critics of the order, mostly from the conservative side of the aisle, shared their disapproval on social media with the hashtag #BidenErasedWomen. The implementation of this order along with the passage of the Equality Act would “make the destruction of women’s sports, spaces, and hard-won rights complete,” wrote the editors of National Review.
— WSJ Editorial Page (@WSJopinion) January 22, 2021
Conservative writer Jazz Shaw wrote the following: “Joe Biden may not be “erasing women” entirely, but he’s definitely heading down the trail toward the erasure of women’s sports.” (RELATED: Study Says Transgender Women Maintain Athletic Advantage Over Biological Women)
Opposition to this bill, and the expansion of transgender legal protections in general, doesn’t live exclusively on the right, though. Former Democratic Hawaii Representative and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard introduced a bill in December that would have banned transgender women from competing in sports against biological women, which Biden’s order supports.
“Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes. Our legislation protects Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex,” Gabbard said at the time.
One progressive organization that came out against Biden’s executive order was the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF). WoLF described the order as one that would “gut sex anti-discrimination laws and eliminate critical protections for women in the federal government.” (RELATED: Tulsi Gabbard Calls On Biden To Stop ‘Domestic Enemies’ Like John Brennan, Adam Schiff and Big Tech)
WoLF is by no means a conservative organization. Its website has a page of “radical feminist” resources, claims that “female humans” are oppressed by a male-supremacist system known as the “patriarchy” and says the group “unapologetically supports abortion on demand.”
And yet, when it comes to issues like transgender women entering spaces occupied by biological women, WoLF finds itself having to ally with conservatives.
“The gender lobby is willing to do anything to dismantle women’s sex-based rights, and we need to be willing to fight back with all the tools available to us,” the group’s website says. That line is part of an FAQ section titled “Why Does WoLF Work With Conservatives?”
Given “the current climate on the American political left, we have found working with conservative organizations or individuals to often be an effective tactic,” it goes on to say. (RELATED: Biden Signs Executive Order Killing Trump’s 2018 Ban On Transgender Military Service)
Part of the reasons groups like WoLF are so isolated on the left is due to fear of speaking out or “cancel culture“ tactics, the organization told the Daily Caller in an email.
“We also know that many who oppose these policies, especially on the left, are afraid to speak up. Our polling suggests that even many people who self-identify as liberal or Democrats do not support these policies. But we have all seen how swiftly punishment is meted out to left-leaning people, especially feminists, who speak out in favor of women and girls.”
When asked if the tide of the debate will shift as policies like Biden’s start to have more of a real-world impact, WoLF said that’s up to the media. When incidents of girls being harmed by these policies happen, “the national media won’t discuss it, and people act like you’re paranoid when you say things like that are happening, because they assume that if it were that bad, it would have been covered.”
Trans rights and bio women’s rights will always be at odds with each other. You can’t have sex based rights AND gender identity based rights. One upsets feminists and the other upsets trans activists. #BidenErasedWoman
— Arielle Scarcella (@ArielleScarcell) January 22, 2021
While groups like WoLF seem to be in the minority on the left, they are not alone. Other organizations like the Women’s Human Rights Campaign take similar stances, and combined with conservatives they could represent a threatening voting bloc on these gender issues for the Democratic Party.
Much noise has been made about Biden’s need to unify left-of-center Americans by doing enough to appeal to the progressive wing of his party while also retaining moderate support. That intra-party divide is often framed in terms of economic and racial issues: what’s the correct stance for the party to take on trendy proposals like Medicare-For-All, defunding police, and the Green New Deal?
Some feminists are now urging Democrats not to overlook the divide that can be caused by gender issues, too. “We have told our friends and colleagues on the left that this issue is potentially very damaging to the party’s credibility and character,” WoLF told the Caller.
Fmr ACLU attorney Kara Dansky:
“[Biden’s transgender] executive order … makes a mockery of the rights, privacy, and safety of women and girls.”
“Sex is grounded in material reality, and that matters a great deal to people whose sexual orientation matters, which is all of us.” pic.twitter.com/8YedlgJ0oZ
— Scott Morefield (@SKMorefield) January 23, 2021
“Adopting these policies is a minefield of bad outcomes that the party leaders will not see coming, because all their staff are highly exposed to an online cancel culture that describes open discussion of these topics as ‘bigoted’ or ‘hateful.’ They are sleepwalking into disaster.”