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Jen Psaki fires back at controversy over LGBTQ executive order: ‘Trans rights are human rights’

Biden signed executive order in January that would prohibit sexual discrimination in federally funded schools

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Tuesday 09 February 2021 22:58 GMT
Trans rights 'are human rights', says Jen Psaki
Leer en Español

A White House spokesperson has responded to backlash over Joe Biden's executive order regarding transgender children competing in athletics in schools.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was asked about what message Mr Biden's executive order should send to cis and transgender female athletes.

"The president believes that trans rights are human rights," Ms Psaki responded before referring the reporter to individual institutions for how they'll treat their athletic programmes.

The executive order under scrutiny, entitled the "Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation", was signed by Mr Biden in January.

It worked to extend a broader application of the Supreme Court's 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County ruling which mandated that LGBTQ people are protected from sex discrimination in the workplace.

"It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex," the justices wrote in their majority opinion.

Mr Biden's executive order builds on the Supreme Court's decision by extending protections to students by prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded schools.

"Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love," Mr Biden's order reads. "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 executive order does not directly tie federal funds to schools allowing for students who were born biologically male to compete in female sports and have access to scholarships, according to a White House statement to USA Today. But it does mandate that all students, including transgender children, should be able to learn without experiencing sexual discrimination, including by participating in "school sports".

Advocates for the LGBTQ community have claimed the executive order will not impede women's rights by allowing transgender females to participate in sports. But critics have said this ruling puts biological females would be at a disadvantage.

Besides addressing discrimination in "school sports", the executive order does not weigh in on transgender athletes competing against other athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which oversees 24 sports across more than 1,000 colleges and universities, allows for transgender athletes to compete without requiring gender confirmation surgeries or legal recognition of the athlete's transitional sex.

What it does require, though, is for transgender women to undergo hormone treatment for one year, when hormones are used, prior to competing. Transgender men can compete in female sports until they begin transitioning with testosterone.

In K-12 schools, different rules and regulations vary state to state on what requirements allow for transgender athletes to compete. Already 16 states provide full inclusion of transgender students into athletics, 14 states require medical proof of student's gender identity, and 10 states offer no policy but leave the decision up to individual schools.

Several lawsuits have been filed to prevent transgender females from competing in women's sports amid concerns their involvement would impede on women's rights. In Connecticut, three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit in 2020 to block transgender females from competing in women's sports.

“Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics,” attorney Christiana Holcomb said, according to the Associate Press. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”

The impact of Mr Biden's executive order on lawsuits like the one taking place in Connecticut was not yet known.

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