President Biden opened a Pandora’s box with his executive order on gender identity and sexual orientation, pushing the hotly contested issue of transgender participation in women’s athletics from the sidelines to the spotlight.
The hashtag #BidenErasedWomen trended Thursday as advocates on both sides of the issue wrestled with the social, political and religious implications of the order signed Wednesday by Mr. Biden “preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the order said. “People should be able to access health care and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.”
The Democratic president said he wanted to ensure equal treatment under the law by directing federal agencies to eliminate discrimination in guidances and policies, while critics predicted that the endgame would be the effective eradication of women’s restrooms, prisons and athletics.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration wasted no time in demanding policies that gut legal protections for women by denying female athletes fair competition in sports, ignoring women’s unique health needs, and forcing vulnerable girls to share intimate spaces with men who identify as female,” said Christiana Holcomb, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel.
Abigail Shrier, author of “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” tweeted that Mr. Biden “unilaterally eviscerates women’s sports.”
“Any educational institution that receives federal funding must admit biologically-male athletes to women’s teams, women’s scholarships,” she said. “A new glass ceiling was just placed over girls.”
LGBT advocates, such as Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charlotte Clymer, blasted critics of Mr. Biden’s order as “transphobes,” arguing that “trans women are women” and that there was “zero evidence — not a shred — that protecting trans women against discrimination harms cis women.”
“To recap: President Biden signed an … order banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” she tweeted. “Transphobes are claiming this attacks the rights of cis women. It does not, of course. It’s just tragic logic and sad bigotry.”
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that “millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.”
“Never again will you have to hide pictures of your family or loved ones at work out of concern you may be fired or harassed,” Mr. David said in a fundraising email. “Teenagers can now attend prom with the classmate they love, and students can go to class with the assurance that they should be called on with their chosen pronouns.”
Mr. David’s email said nothing about transgender access to women’s sports, and there may be a reason for that: The issue is a loser in the polls.
A November 2019 poll by Rasmussen Reports found just 29% supported allowing biological males who identify as women to compete against biological females, and 51% opposed it.
The implications for athletics drew national attention last year after the ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Connecticut high school female track athletes who said they were deprived of fair competition, honors and scholarship chances by two transgender runners who took 15 state titles.
“This isn’t equality, and it isn’t progress,” Ms. Holcomb said. “President Biden’s call for ‘unity’ falls flat when he seeks to hold those receiving federal funds hostage if they don’t do tremendous damage to the rights, opportunities, and dignity of women and girls.”
The Trump administration sided with the Connecticut female athletes, arguing that the state policy violated Title IX by discriminating against biological girls and women.
Mr. Biden’s executive order is expected to roll back such Trump-era guidances and policies, prompting Mr. David to declare that “full force of the federal government’s legal enforcement power is now behind our community.”
The order comes with House Democrats expected to reintroduce the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill died in the Senate after passing the House in 2019, and Mr. Biden has said he supports it.
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, pointed out that his group tried to run an ad about Democratic threats to women’s sports, but that the ad was banned by Facebook in September over “missing context.”
“APP warned during the election that Biden and Democrats were a threat to the hard-won rights of women, particularly women athletes,” Mr. Schilling said. “Those warnings were labelled ‘lies’ and ‘misinformation’ by many journalists and censored by social media. But now, Biden has proven us right, and on his first day in office no less.”
Supporters of the executive order cited the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in employment was prohibited by Title VII.
James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, said that the “action by the Biden administration recognizes what the Supreme Court held last June and what we’ve long known: LGBTQ people are protected by our civil rights laws.”
Religious freedom is another issue.
For example, under the Biden directive, medical professionals could be required to perform sex-change procedures in violation of their religion. Companies and other organizations with a religious basis could be compelled to offer health-care plans that cover gender reassignment.
“With a stroke of a pen, President Joe Biden has turned 50-year-old civil rights legislation on its head, hollowing out protections for people of faith,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said. “President Biden is unilaterally enacting a sweeping policy change that has routinely failed to win the approval of Congress, the body the Constitution tasks with actually passing laws.”
Ryan Anderson, Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, and Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society, said it “doesn’t take a crystal ball to know how Biden administration officials will interpret and apply these policies.”
“Men who identify as women must be allowed in women-only spaces, boys who identify as girls must be allowed to compete in the girls’ athletic competitions, healthcare plans must pay for gender-transition procedures, doctors and hospitals must perform them, [and] adoption agencies may not seek only married moms and dads to care for children in need,” they said.