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Last week in LGBTQ+ rights: House Democrats push back against anti-LGBTQ+ measures

The Texas judge who ordered the FDA to rescind approval of an abortion drug says drag shows aren’t protected by the First Amendment.

By Will Fritz - September 25, 2023
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Matthew Kacsmaryk listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Dec. 13, 2017.
Matthew Kacsmaryk listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Dec. 13, 2017. (Senate Judiciary Committee via AP)

This series is a weekly roundup of LGBTQ-related news, covering various laws and bans, as well as efforts to push back against them.

Conservative Texas judge rules drag show not protected speech

A federal judge in Texas ruled against a group of students who sued their university over a canceled drag show.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote in his opinion that drag shows are not constitutionally protected speech.

The students sued after West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler shut down a planned drag show fundraiser for LGBTQ+-focused suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project, arguing, “Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.”

While another federal judge in August ruled that a Texas law banning drag shows was likely unconstitutional, Kacsmaryk argued in the West Texas A&M University case that Wendler was likely permitted to restrict drag performances in the interest of preventing “potential lewdness,” which is not allowed under existing school policy.

The judge wrote: “the First Amendment does not prevent school officials from restricting ‘vulgar and lewd’ conduct that would ‘undermine the school’s basic educational mission’ — particularly in settings where children are physically present.”

Kacsmaryk is the same judge who earlier this year ordered the Food and Drug Administration to rescind its approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

House Democrats call for removal of anti-LGBTQ+ provisions from defense authorization

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing for the removal of anti-LGBTQ+ measures from next fiscal year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the defense funding bill that Congress must pass each year.

The NDAA is among the spending bills that Congress must pass and President Joe Biden must sign by Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown. The holdup is in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing threats to his speakership from the most conservative members of his caucus if he does not accede to their demands, The Democratic-led Senate is unlikely to pass either a stopgap spending bill or a full budget that includes right-wing demands.

The Republican-led House passed a version of the NDAA in July that included a ban on paying for gender-affirming care for service members and their dependents, a prohibition on Pride flags on military bases, and censorship of books mentioning gender identity from schools operated by the Department of Defense. The House voted on Sept. 19 to send its version of the NDAA to the Senate for negotiations.

“These sections of the House-passed NDAA were constructed to score political points rather than support and invest in our most important operational advantage: our service members,” reads a letter from Sept. 21 signed by more than 150 House Democrats.

In a separate statement from Sept. 19, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries accused Republicans of using the version of the NDAA passed in the House to “jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of everyday Americans.”

“The yearly NDAA is a must-pass investment in our men and women in uniform and in our national security,” Jeffries said in the statement. “Unfortunately, this year extreme MAGA Republicans in the House hijacked what was historically a bipartisan process to once again jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of everyday Americans. House Democrats will always put People Over Politics to protect the safety and security of the American people and will also continue to stand up against extremism wherever and whenever necessary.”

Huffington Post: “Experts” in anti-trans cases are “hired guns”

A new deep dive from the Huffington Post last week showed many of the expert witnesses who have appeared in court on behalf of states defending anti-trans laws lack credibility.

The Huffington Post’s story from Sept. 15 profiled a handful of these “experts,” many of whom have been called in to give testimony in several court cases involving challenges to state anti-trans measures enacted in recent months.

One such person is an endocrinologist who supports criminalization of all gender-affirming care and has a $75,000 contract to defend Alabama’s ban on such care for minors. Another, also an endocrinologist, was paid about $41,000 to help defend Arkansas’ similar ban.

Many of these figures have rarely, if ever, treated youth for gender dysphoria, the Huffington Post reported.

“They’re hired guns,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a lawyer for the LGBTQ+ rights group Lambda Legal, told the Huffington Post. “These are not real experts. They’re manufactured as experts by the opponents of transgender rights.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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