It’s hard to imagine exactly how a the parents of 18 children have time to take a breath, much less get actively involved in politics, but no one can ever accuse the Duggars of being unambitious. From bans on abortion at the point in which a heartbeat can be detected to backing far right social conservatives on the campaign trail, Jim Bob and his wife Michelle can always be found promoting their favorite causes and candidates.
Now, matriarch Michelle has added trans discrimination that list of favorites. Fayetteville, Ark., proposed a city ordinance to protect discrimination against LGBT residents, including discrimination in hiring, housing and other practices. But the civil rights measure was being campaigned against by those who claimed to be “traditional family values” followers, such as Family Council, which fear-mongered that their religious rights would somehow be stripped in their churches and businesses if they were forced to treat gay or transgender people in the same way as straight or cisgendered counterparts are treated.
To help make their case the group hired Michelle Duggar to record a call to send to residents, where she pleaded with them not to allow men to use women’s bathrooms and potentially sexually assault young girls.
“Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children. The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool’s private changing area?”
Those who support basic equal civil rights for all are incensed at her attempts to whip up hysteria around the specter of alleged child endangerment. “Duggar is playing on the old and false conservative conflation of non-heteronormativity with criminal deviancy,” writes Lizzie Crocker at the Daily Beast. “It’s pure fear-mongering to say that letting a transgendered person use the same bathroom as women and children would be a public safety threat.”
“[W]hile I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, I also believe that others are entitled to judge said beliefs if they’re in any way bigoted, transphobic, or downright false. All of which Duggar’s are,” agrees Tanya Ghahremani at Bustle.
As trans-rights author Parker Molloy notes at The Advocate, this isn’t the Duggars’ first step into the the pro side of the discrimination debate. In 2012, the Duggars actively advocated for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies after a Colorado troop allowed a transgender girl to join. “Our family loves Girl Scout cookies, and I don’t think allowing a boy in the Girl Scouts is a good thing,” they claimed, adding that they firmly believed the original founder of the organization “would be truly upset to hear” that a 7-year-old trans girl was allowed to participate in the same activities as other 7-year-old cisgender girls.
The Fayetteville non-discrimination bill goes far beyond just allowing trans people access to public facilities that they identify and present as, rather than forcing them to use the one that they may be the most biologically connected to. It is meant to stop discrimination in hiring and to protect those seeking rental housing from being barred from applying or turned down because of their orientation, as well. Opponents continue to harp on the bathroom topic, however, despite the fact that their myth of the sexual predator has been thoroughly debunked by legal analysts.
According to Media Matters, “Experts in 12 states — including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault — have debunked the right-wing myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender non-discrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms, calling the myth baseless and ‘beyond specious.’”
Still, the talking points get used, in what has been termed “bathroom panic.” One recent example was in October, where claims that a trans student was using the girls restroom and harassing the girls inside. Despite the copious news reports, there was no substantiation that such a thing ever occurred, and the school denied such an incident.
The Fayetteville non-discrimination policy passed the city council Tuesday night as expected, and an amendment to exempt tax exempt facilities was added to relieve churches from being subject to the new law. However, while another amendment that would put the issue up for a public vote in November failed, residents can still petition for it to happen, either in November or in an expensive special election. With funding being dumped into a Duggar robocall, it’s clear that for opponents of the anti-discrimination measure, this council vote isn’t the last stop. The question is, how much more transphobic will their tactics become as the persue the right to legally discriminate?
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