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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said today he can't support the Equality Act because people might just declare themselves to be transgender -- including Donald Trump.
"If President Trump were to say, 'I am now the first female president,' who would celebrate that?" the Republican congressman said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the legislation, which would amend existing civil rights law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and a variety of other venues.
Gaetz argued that the bill "would only nominally protect certain individuals while causing tremendous harm to others."
"I strongly support the rights of transgender individuals," he said. "I will not denigrate or deny their struggles. But I am concerned about the potential bad actors who would exploit the provisions for their own gain."
By that, Gaetz meant people who might pretend to be transgender to gain access to a women's restroom and commit assault -- a familiar argument that is not supported by evidence -- or to win a contract designated for a woman-owned business.
Some other far-right Republicans, such as Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, raised the specter of assaults in restrooms or homeless shelters, and there were those who contended that protecting the rights of transgender people would undermine the rights of cisgender women.
However, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a Democrat, noted that some of his conservative colleagues who are expressing concern about women had voted against women's rights measures, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
Later, Kenji Yoshino, a law professor and LGBTQ rights activist who appeared as a witness in support of the Equality Act, pointed out the problem with arguments like Gaetz's and Gohmert's. "One of the painful ironies of this entire hearing is that we hear over and over again trans individuals being cast as the perpetrators of assault and harassment where statistically there's no evidence that trans individuals are more likely to perpetrate assault or harassment," he said. "In fact, exactly the opposite is true: Trans individuals are more likely to be the victims of assault and harassment, and that's exactly what the Equality Act would cure."
Video of the full hearing is below.