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Are LGBTQ activists preparing to surrender bathroom battle to win GOP support?

Are LGBTQ activists preparing to surrender bathroom battle to win GOP support?

The hot topic in the world of LGBTQ activism right now is an explosive story that reportedly exposes a schism between some of the top civil rights organizations over the issue of transgender bathroom access.

BuzzFeed reporter Dominic Holden broke the news Tuesday that two dozen advocates took part in a conference call August 1st, in which one faction pushed for legislation that focuses solely on housing and employment rights for LGBTQ Americans. Those in favor proposed dropping all attempts at securing public accommodations which directly impacts the transgender community.

What remains unclear at this point is how many transgender activists took part, and with one exception, who they are.

The reasoning behind this strategy, according to the report, would be to eliminate the biggest obstacle to nondiscrimination legislation in conservative states: the dispelled but persistent myth that accommodating transgender individuals and allowing them to use public bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity would put women and children at risk of sexual violence.

There has never been even one incident in the United States of a transgender individual convicted of using access to a bathroom for sexual violence. Yet the myth persists and was cited extensively by opponents of a equal rights ordinance in Houston last year.

The focus of those willing to throw transgender Americans under the bus was now-defeated legislation in Pennsylvania that would outlaw LGBT discrimination in workplaces and housing but public places like restaurants and stores would be exempt. Holden reported that “many on the call believe this could emerge as a model for other swing states where they’ve hit barricades — namely in Ohio, Florida, and Arizona…”

“But such a deal would allow, for example, business owners to reject gay customers and require transgender women to use male facilities. “That sort of concession breaks from years of consensus among LGBT leaders, who have tacitly agreed that civil rights bills in state legislatures or Congress should be all-inclusive. Anything less, the orthodoxy has gone, could betray transgender people who bear the brunt of discrimination in public.”

Unfortunately, BuzzFeed hit dead-ends trying to get activists to speak on the record. Transgender activist Mara Keisling is one of those who did.

She explained to Holden why she favored the compromise, calling the pushback against accommodations “incrementalism,” which generally speaking is to seize whatever victories are available in hopes of further accomplishments at a later date.

Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Holden the model set by California, Hawaii and Nevada was the right path: “Incrementalism is how policy gets done while other people are whining about incrementalism,” she told BuzzFeed. “We have made it an article faith over the past few years that if a bill lacks public accommodations, it’s useless. That’s not true.”

According to Holden’s report, that path espoused by Keisling and unnamed others was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign, among others. The ACLU went so far as to send a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers in June outlining their objections to the compromise bill that would drop public accommodations for LGBTQ people.

The result of that action was the bill was defeated, and that in turn led to a dramatic move by the Gill Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports the compromise, to refuse future funding of the ACLU.

“It doesn’t make sense to have our philanthropic dollars being used to fund an effort at odds with our overall strategy to protect as many people as quickly as possible,” said Jeffrey W. Schneider, the out spokesman for the Gill Foundation and the Gill Action Fund. Schneider told BuzzFeed in an email the ACLU was told to not apply for another grant.

“ACLU, through its representatives, has made it clear to leadership of both our 501©(3) and separately to our political operation that we are not currently in sync,” Schneider explained. BuzzFeed reported he refused to identify how much money was at stake.

The ACLU told LGBTQNation no spokesperson was available to comment for this report.

Read the full report by Dominic Holden at BuzzFeed here.

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