Republican House members on Tuesday compared LGBTQ people to Nazis and claimed cis men would try to “game the system” and benefit from being identified as trans women if Congress passes the Equality Act.
Lawmakers made the claims during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act, a historic bill that would expand and clarify the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, education, use of public spaces, and other areas.
In one exchange, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) raised questions about whether gay and lesbian people should even have equal access to health care.
In another exchange, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) questioned Jamie Contreras, who gave testimony about how a pediatrician turned her and her wife away for care for their child because they are lesbians.
Buck asked Contreras if the other doctor the pediatrician recommended offered “inferior medical care.” Contreras said she wasn’t sure since they didn’t have opportunity to research that doctor.
He then asked her, “Is it your position that an Orthodox Jewish doctor whose grandparent was killed in the Holocaust should be required to work with a Nazi patient?”
Contreras said that she was raised on Christian values and believes in religious freedom. She then added, “Me and my wife are raising our children on those same values to respect everyone, love thy neighbor, and treat everyone equally.”
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), sponsor of the bill, then chimed in to point out that Nazis are not a protected class under the Equality Act.
Republicans also used the hearing to argue against the Equality Act by targeting trans people with a common — and inaccurate — narrative that protecting LGBTQ rights would lead cisgender men to take advantage of the system.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) complained that nondiscrimination protections for transgender women would only help cisgender men who wished to lie about their gender.
McClintock said, “What should we tell a woman-owned business that loses out to a government contract because a man decided to identify as a woman in order to win that contract?”
He asked Sunu Chandy, the legal director of the National Women’s Law Center, “Doesn’t this happen under this bill?”
“Transgender women are women,” Chandy replied. “This question of people being able to lie about their gender identity I find so interesting because I think someone raised today that people can lie about being gay. People can lie about being a lesbian and yet we need rights because we’re gay or lesbian. The same rights apply. These are not things that people lie about to gain rights. They are the basis of really painful discrimination as you’ve heard from so many of us.”
McClintock continued to claim cis men would “game the system” and pretend to be trans women to win government contracts. This is a common talking point among conservatives, who argue that cisgender men will lie about their gender to gain some advantage or get access to women’s bathrooms.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) also said that he is “concerned about the potential of bad actors who would exploit provisions of this law for their own gain,” and again said men could theoretically commit fraud and lie about their gender to get government grants.
The idea that transgender people are tricking everyone about their gender to gain some kind of personal advantage was pervasive throughout the hearing. These false narratives are harmful to trans people and lead to exactly the kind of discrimination the Equality Act is trying to confront. The idea that a transgender person’s existence is misleading unto itself contributes to sexual harassment and violence against trans people.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) said during the hearing, “I believe that all people should be treated equally, but I am concerned that HR 5, with the weight of federal law, forces schools, prisons, shelters, etc. to prioritize the rights of biological males over that of biological women.”
A 2018 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that there is no evidence that shows trans people using public facilities endangers cisgender people.
In addition to his comments about “bad actors” trying to fraudulently secure grants, Gaetz brought up the possibility of President Donald Trump being a transgender woman.
“Consider if Trump said, ‘I am now the first female president.’ Who would celebrate that? Would those who support the legislation think that’s a good thing or would they be dismayed?”
It’s unclear how Gaetz thought Trump being transgender would affect the Equality Act or why it was relevant to mention this hypothetical during a discussion of trans people’s equal housing, workplace, and education rights.