Despite fierce Republican opposition, Democratic lawmakers successfully defended federal LGBTQ+ protections that will benefit incarcerated trans people in particular.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize an expanded version of the Violence Against Women Act on Wednesday, The New York Times reports. Signed into law in 1994 by former President Bill Clinton and reauthorized every six to seven years without issue, it will now go to the House floor for a vote.
A new provision added to the Violence Against Women Act that inspired partisan tension would push the Federal Bureau of Prisons to consider trans prisoners’ safety when giving out housing assignments, ideally housing them according to their gender identity and not their sex assigned at birth.
Republican lawmakers took issue with this provision. Louie Gohmert of Texas said that it would “do more harm” than good, while Debbie Lesko of Arizona said that it would “[force] organizations to take in men in women’s shelters,” calling trans women “biological males.” She proposed an amendment of her own that would have allowed rape shelters to deny services to trans survivors, which failed. She and Steve Chabot of Ohio also proposed an amendment that would have let faith-based shelters deny services to trans people on religious grounds, which also failed.
“There is no evidence to suggest that placing transgender women in shelters poses any danger to anybody,” said David Cicilline, the out gay representative of Rhode Island behind similarly pro-LGBTQ+ legislation like the Equality Act. “All it does is ensure that transgender people are safe.”
Though the Republican lawmakers’ efforts failed, their actions in the House Judiciary Committee reflect a broader conservative strategy to mask anti-trans action with performatively feminist, pro-woman rhetoric — a more liberal-friendly version of the same fundamentalist fear-mongering used to push bathroom bills and other anti-trans legislation.
That’s why Lesko reportedly invited Julia Beck, the self-identified “lesbian radical feminist” who recently appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, to testify against the pro-trans VAWA provisions at a hearing last week. And it’s why the Heritage Foundation sponsored a panel for “radical feminists” to address the pro-trans Equality Act and “the left’s embrace of the transgender agenda,” two attendees of which went on to harass Sarah McBride, a prominent trans advocate who works for the Human Rights Campaign, after the event had ended.