Heritage Action Supports Rep. Pete Olson's Civil Rights Uniformity Act

Blog Articles · Jun 7, 2017 · Social Issues

This Wednesday Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) was joined by Reps. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) in introducing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act (H.R. 2796). This legislation would prevent all references to the words "sex" or "gender" from being misinterpreted to mean "gender identity" in federal civil rights law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, Obamacare, and other laws. This bill affirms that when Congress passed civil rights law, the purpose was to protect against discrimination when it comes to a person's objective biological sex, not a subjective, self-declared "gender identity."

On May 13, 2016, the Obama administration's Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint "Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, declaring that the agencies would "treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX." The guidance directed all educational institutions that receive federal funds to allow transgender students to use showers, bathrooms, lockers, dorms, and joint athletic teams that correspond to their subjective, self-declared gender identity, rather than their objective biological sex defined on their birth certificate.

On August 21, 2016, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled the administration's attempts to redefine sex as unlawful and blocked implementation of the directive ruling. Judge O'Connor ruled that the administration exceeded its authority under Title IX by not allowing the public the proper time to comment and by reinterpreting the law against the will of Congress. According to O'Connor, "It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex...meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth."

The Obama administration's unilateral decision to redefine federal law for political purposes imposed a one-size-fits-all policy on every school in the country. It blatantly undermined the rule of law, separation of powers, and federalism while threatening the safety and privacy of young women.

The Trump administration took positive steps forward in addressing the problem by rescinding the Obama guidance on February 22, 2017, but unfortunately this decision was limited to Title IX and the education community. The Trump administration should extend this decision to every area where federal agencies have imposed new "gender identity" rules under the Obama administration, including employment, housing and shelters, business regulation, and health care.

More importantly, Congress must codify this clarification into federal law to prevent future administrations from undermining the legislative branch once again. Ryan Anderson, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, gives further guidance, writing that "Congress should make such administrative actions permanent." The Civil Rights Uniformity Act would:

"have the benefit of undoing the past and current abuses of Title IX, as well as preventing future abuses of other civil rights law.
"Passing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act would ensure that unelected bureaucrats and judges would not get to unilaterally reshape policy affecting women and girls. It would allow schools to continue providing separate bathroom and locker room facilities and sports teams based on biological sex, not gender identity.
"It also would address other unilateral Obama-era "gender identity" reinterpretations in health care, emergency shelters, housing, and employment. At the same time, such legislation would properly leave states and private entities entirely free to provide nuanced, sensitive, and reasonable accommodations of people who identify as transgender."

Reiterating that "sex" and "gender" refer to objective biology, rather than subjective, self-professed "gender identity" in all federal anti-discrimination statutes, is the most permanent and comprehensive response to the radical left's transgender policy agenda. Congress should reassert its constitutional authority, defend the rule of law and federalism, and protect the safety and privacy of young women by passing the Civil Rights Uniformity Act.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***