U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz actually argued at a House Judiciary Committee hearing that as much as he would like to protect transgender people from the real fears of housing and employment discrimination, he just can't based on the vanishingly unlikely chance that President Donald Trump could then declare himself the "first female president."
The Florida Republican dropped this contrived bit of whataboutery at a Tuesday hearing for the Equality Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation by including them under the definition of "sex" in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"I believe that individuals in our country should not face discrimination for their sex or for their gender or their sexual orientation or [their] gender identity," Gaetz says. "I very much want to support the legislation, but I can't because the legislation would only nominally protect certain individuals while causing tremendous harm to others."
Gaetz's premise relies on "bad actors" that could "weaponize" equality laws to personally benefit themselves, an offensive myth about trans and gender non-conforming people that has been debunked numerous times.
"I strongly support the rights of transgender individuals," Gaetz says. "I will not denigrate or deny their existence or their struggles but I am concerned about the potential of bad actors who would exploit the provisions of this law for their own gain. Consider this possibility: If President Trump were to say, 'I am now the first female president,' who would celebrate that? Would those who support the legislation think that's a good thing or would they be dismayed?"
Gaetz may have thought he was "triggering the libs" with this winner of an argument, but all he did was prove he can't imagine a world where people can decide later in life to be who they've always felt they are, which is pretty transphobic.
"I support protecting individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity but this legislation creates more problems than it solves," Gaetz says. "It will chill freedom of speech. It will harm religious liberty. It will undermine women's rights, and I wish I could support it but I can't."
Rep. Val Demings, D-Orlando, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, made it clear she had no time for Gaetz's concern trolling at the hearing.
"Just saying that you support equal rights or women's rights or civil rights isn't enough, because the American people are always watching what you do," she says.
The false argument from Republicans that some trans and gender non-conforming people could be trying to game the system ignores the reality. Nearly a quarter of trans people say they have experienced some form of housing discrimination, and 30 percent have been fired, denied promotions or otherwise experienced discrimination at their jobs, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. The same survey found that 46 percent of trans people reported being verbally harassed in the past year for being transgender and almost one in 10 were physically attacked over their identity.
"We've heard about discrimination in housing, we've heard about discrimination in employment, we've heard about discrimination on so many different areas that are necessary to living a quality life in this country," Demings argues. "Yet, we're overruling all of that based on this belief that there may somehow be discrimination in the area of sports. I played sports, and I do not believe it takes precedence over my ability to love whomever I want to, to live wherever I want to live, to work wherever my qualities as an individual take me or to be my authentic self."
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