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Attorney: Redefining gender in federal law could hurt transgender Montanans

Posted at 8:33 AM, Oct 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-24 12:19:35-04

GREAT FALLS- A Montana attorney and activist says an apparent effort to establish a new federal definition of gender could present problems for transgender people.

Bobbie Zenker, a Disability Rights Montana attorney and LGBTQ rights activist, said Tuesday a new federal memo, recently uncovered by The New York Times, could keep transgender people out of public spaces and create headaches surrounding official documents, such as a driver’s license.

“If you have legislation that would not allow people to do that, that effectively keeps those people out of public spaces so, that is what that effort does is to, ‘Let’s not allow certain groups of people into public spaces” so in that sense we’re not recognizing their humanity,” Zenker said.

She said the trans community is most worried about the repeated effort already seen in places like North Carolina to keep them out of public spaces like using restrooms.

According to the memo obtained by The New Yrok Times over the weekend, the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

The reviewed draft said the Agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that person is born with.

The Times states the new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of Americans who have opted to recognize themselves – surgically or otherwise – as a gender other than the one they were born into.

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign posted to social media on Sunday asking Congress to take action “by advancing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ people are explicitly protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”

Meanwhile, President Trump had this to say to reporters about the memo Monday.

“We’re looking at it. We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do. We’re looking at it very seriously. I’m protecting everybody. You know what I’m doing? I’m protecting everybody. I’m protecting our country,” he said.

The New York Times said a new definition will likely be presented to the Justice Department by the end of this year.