Since the last installment of this column, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the fiercest elected foe of LGBT rights, dropped out of the presidential race after weeks making vicious attacks on transgender Americans. But while progressives heaved a sigh of relief as Cruz left the campaign trail, transgender rights continue to take center stage in US politics as anti-LGBT hate groups look to Donald Trump to pick up where Cruz left off. Indeed, Trump has already vowed to rescind the Obama administration’s pro-transgender directives should he be elected. According to Trump, transgender rights should be left up to the individual states to decide. But as any student of American history knows, leaving any civil rights issue to the states only results in an unacceptable, uneven, and unworkable national patchwork of rights that appear and vanish as easily as one crosses a state line.
The Obama administration took another bold step in ending that patchwork last week when it issued pro-transgender guidelines to every public school system in the nation, advising them that trans students are to be permitted to use the restrooms and sporting facilities of their choosing. The new guidelines immediately set anti-LGBT hate groups into overdrive. Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, issued a call for the impeachment of President Obama, telling a radio host that the president was surrendering America’s children to evil much like Lot surrendered his virgin daughters just before the supposed destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The National Organization for Marriage, the USA’s main organizers of the failed campaign to stop same-sex marriage, responded to the guidelines by issuing a frantic plea for donations, telling its supporters that that president was putting the nation’s children and grandchildren in danger of being assaulted by “bathroom predators,” a persistent claim made by anti-LGBT hate groups despite any evidence that transgender rights have ever resulted in such a crime.
The guidelines have also met with stiff opposition from some leading Republicans. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who moonlights as the host of an extremist radio program, gained national headlines for declaring that his state would never submit to President Obama’s “blackmail” on transgender rights. While the Obama administration has threatened to pull federal funding from states that do not comply, last week they made it clear that no such action would be taken while the Justice Department’s lawsuit against an anti-trans law is underway in North Carolina. Also in Texas, the Republican superintendent of a public school system told the media, “Obama ain’t my president and his (guidelines) letter is going straight the shredder.”
Over in the corporate world, Target, the USA’s seventh-largest retailer, continues to face attacks from Christian groups over its pro-transgender policy. Leaders of the American Family Association, whose anti-Target boycott petition bears an alleged 1.2 million names, were rebuffed by Target officials during a meeting last week. Target CEO Brian Cornell appeared on a cable new network the following day to declare that his company would stand firm in their pro-diversity stance. The AFA responded by vowing to add another one million names to their petition. Another anti-LGBT hate group, Faith2Action, then announced in-person protests to take place at Target stores around the nation on June 4th. Other corporations are under fire in North Carolina, where Republican leaders have threatened to end tax incentives for businesses that continue to express opposition to that state’s anti-LGBT hate law.
Just a couple of months ago, few would have predicted that transgender rights would become one of the leading issues of the 2016 election season. But this is where we are. And once again, President Obama and the federal government are leading the charge, fighting the good fight. After winning same-sex marriage last year with their unceasing support, you’d think we’d be used to that by now, but it remains a wondrous thing to witness.