Friday, May 13, 2016

Asa Hutchinson raps Obama's directive on transgender protection

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2016 at 12:17 PM

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson has sharply criticized President Obama for the administration's issuance of guidance aimed at protecting transgender students in public schools.

The administration, relying on federal court precedent, says schools must allow students to use restrooms that match their gender identity. This did not sit well with Hutchinson.

Governor Asa Hutchinson today released the following statement in response to the “guidance” on gender identification in schools issued by President Obama, the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department:

"The recent letter from the federal government providing guidance to Arkansas schools on gender identification is offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense. There is no recognizable problem in Arkansas on this issue. The federal government is stirring the pot and meddling in the local control and administration of our schools.

"As Governor, I recommend that local school districts disregard the latest attempt at social engineering by the federal government and continue to use common sense to ensure a safe and healthy environment in Arkansas schools. While the letter implies federal money could be withheld, the letter is nothing more than guidance and is not legally binding."
We haven't heard reports of problems at Arkansas schools, which doesn't mean they haven't occurred. But I can tell the governors that problems DO exist. Witness a biological woman who presents in appearance as a man who was angrily challenged when entering a women's restroom at the state Capitol. This kind of hysteria is afoot in the land and it is only abetted by Hutchinson's demagoguery.

What, for example, does Hutchinson mean by "common sense"? I suspect the definition might differ according to where a student lives in Arkansas.

Apart from engaging in demagoguery typical of those trying to blow bathroom mythology up for the purposes of waging war against broader equality issues for LGBT people, Hutchinson needs to answer this simple but important question:

Does he believe students should be allowed to use facilities according to their gender identity or not?

I've asked. If his office responds, I'll let you know.

Those who view Asa Hutchinson as a moderate should, by now, have sufficient cause to reconsider: He signed legislation preserving legal discrimination against gay people in housing, employment and public services. He would not oppose a law prohibiting local anti-discrimination laws. He took money away from a medical services provider, Planned Parenthood, based on dishonest and unsupported allegations in an attack video. And now he joins the bathroom mob.

In time, those national corporations that have boycotted North Carolina will understand that there's little difference in governance in Arkansas.

Other Republican demagogues are pitching in. For example, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin on Twitter:

Thank you @AsaHutchinson 4 common sense statement on Obama Admin's ridiculous & misguided "guidance" on gender ID in public schools.
Griffin and Hutchinson are lawyers. They should know federal court precedent says that laws against discrimination based on sex apply to transgender people. It is ridiculous and misguided to obey the law? It is cruel to encourage people to make life even more difficult for the tiny number of people, particularly children, who are affected.

And it is getting crazier. The Arkansas Department of Education has distributed this message:

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I have asked if this means the Department is officially telling local school districts they may prohibit transgender students from using facilities for the sex with which they identify. This is going to open the door in some places to unimaginable acts of cruelty for no good reason other than carrying out the Republican political agenda.

This is a hateful state.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Education Commissioner Johnny Key has so far refused to answer my question on his opinion on whether schools must allow transgender students to use facilities in accordance with their identity. She would only repeat agreement with the governor's statement, which similarly avoids an answer to that question.

UPDATE II: Another reason to love UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson and regret his departure. The university responded to Obama guidance by saying, in part:

UALR has a long-standing policy against discrimination. When the federal or state government issues a directive such as this one, the university will comply with the ruling.
Michael Poore, the new Little Rock School District superintendent, danced around a question on the issue, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette account. He said good district work with "these families," presumably those with transgender children, "to understand what their needs are."

UPDATE III: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge naturally throws in on the demagoguery and even threatens lawsuit, though I don't know how you can sue over a suggestion.

“The President is taking his abuse of power to a new level today by forcing a liberal social agenda on school-age children,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This radical and outrageous policy drastically expands the federal government’s role in our local schools and raises serious safety concerns for students and parents. Threatening local districts with a loss of funding unless they comply with this non-binding ‘guidance’ is potentially disruptive to the entire education process and lacks all common sense. These bullying and blackmail tactics are unlawful and unconscionable.

“I stand with Governor Hutchinson in urging local districts to disregard this latest attempt from the administration to force a social agenda on the states. I will also work with my colleagues across the country to determine if legal action against this directive is necessary in order to keep our students safe.”
Safety concerns? Not a single one has yet been demonstrated, though millions of students attend schools in more enlightened places.

The Northwest Arkansas Center for Equality fires back:

"Governor Hutchinson's comments that a directive protecting the rights transgender students in public schools is 'offensive' reminds us why such clarity from the federal government is needed. LGBT citizens across Arkansas are too familiar being left out of protections under state law and depending on the federal government to ensure their most basic rights are protected. Governor Hutchinson should recognize that generations of civil rights movements relied on the U.S. government for clarity lacking in state law and were necessary to achieve full equality."

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