The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Senate Codes ‘Gender Identity’ Into Anti-Lynching Bill

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, Calif., September 30, 2014. (Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS)

While the media’s attention has been focused on the Senate’s passing of the FIRST STEP Act — a bipartisan criminal-justice reform measure  — a less remarkable bill has appeared before, and been passed by, the Senate. That bill is S-3178, an anti-lynching bill that passed by unanimous consent.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker expressed his “gratitude” for the bipartisan cooperation that made this possible, while Democratic Senator Kamala Harris said, “I know of no further debate on the Hill.” In theory, they’re right, of course: Anti-lynching bills should be totally uncontentious. And the anti-lynching part is. But there is more to this bill than initially meets the eye. The bill refers to:

OFFENSES INVOLVING THE ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY. [my emphasis]

A source on the Hill told me that many Republicans are uneasy about the coding of “gender identity” as it had not appeared in the original text. Some tried to strike it from the bill, but these efforts were unsuccessful. This is partly because “gender identity” was slipped into the bill at the last minute. Apparently, this amendment was made to the manager’s package put together by judiciary staff — which are intended to be uncontroversial clarifications — led by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. The Democrats were then able to weaponize this as serious opposition could be interpreted as Republicans being opposed to anti-lynching legislation.

Though the bill will be sent to the House, it is unlikely to be voted on. Nevertheless, the casual insertion of “’gender identity” into federal law sets a dangerous precedent. Indeed, this bill comes in advance of the Equality Act which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by extending protections to “gender identity” which it defines “as gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or characteristics, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth”. The Equality Act — HR 2282 and S 1006 — could be brought to the House any time after the new Congress convenes in January. The ACLU claims that:

The Equality Act would update our laws to provide all people with full protection from discrimination – and that’s why we need to enact this historic legislation. [Their emphasis.]

However, by enshrining “gender identity” into federal law, sex-based rights are all too easily undermined. This is especially concerning for all-female spaces such as schools, public facilities, and prisons. Consider, for instance, how similar legal proposals under the guise of “equality” have caused major backlash in the United Kingdom from parents, feminists, transgender moderates, and gay rights activists.

Therefore, while this may seem trivial — conservatives on the Hill should remain vigilant against those who would slip “gender identity” into federal law and attempt to avoid debate about doing so.

Editor’s note: This post has been amended since its original publication. 

Madeleine Kearns — Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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