The Trump verdict proves Republicans never cared about protecting women in changing rooms

Donald Trump shakes Mike Pence's hand, and has also named him in charge of handling a possible Coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence Photo: Shutterstock

Republicans have spent the better part of the past decade attacking transgender equality by arguing that treating trans women as women would hurt cis women. The mantra was repeated ad nauseum during the wave of bathroom bills in the mid-2010s and came back as parents protested schools’ trans-inclusive policies in the early 2020s: If trans women can use public restrooms or locker rooms in peace, then cis girls and women will be attacked, either by the trans women themselves or by cis men abusing the rule to get into gender-segregated spaces.

Republicans claim they think that sexual assault is so bad that even the remote possibility that someone, somewhere could use an unrelated rule to somehow attack a cisgender woman is worth the cost of putting trans people at risk by making them use the wrong restroom, making them feel dysphoric even if they aren’t attacked in the wrong restroom, and making many of them avoid using facilities altogether when in public.

Except Donald Trump didn’t need any rules supporting trans equality to get into a changing room with journalist E. Jean Carroll in 1995. Carroll accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room, kissing her without her consent, pulling down her tights, and sexually assaulting her.

A jury yesterday agreed that it most likely happened and ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in damages. Trump’s testimony didn’t help – he admitted that he thinks male celebrities like him are allowed to sexually assault women during a deposition and later claimed that Carroll and even her lawyer were too ugly to rape. He then later mistook a picture of Carroll for a picture of his ex-wife.

So considering how Republicans have claimed that cis women’s safety in public changing rooms is one of their top priorities, one would think that they’re all condemning Trump right now, distancing themselves from him lest he become the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee.

One would be laughably wrong.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) – who tried to tank a COVID-19 relief bill in 2021 by adding an amendment to ban trans girls from participating in school sports, another issue where Republicans claim they’re on the side of protecting cis women from trans people – said that the jury’s verdict against Trump “makes me want to vote for him twice” in 2024.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has built a career on opposing LGBTQ+ rights and has made attacking trans people central to his not-yet-announced 2024 campaign. The fact that trans women just don’t assault cis women in public restrooms never bothered people like him; the remote possibility that it could occur is enough to deny an entire class equal rights.

But, well, Trump is apparently another story. Pence told NBC News that he has known Trump for a few years and has never personally seen Trump rape any women, so he couldn’t have done it in the mid-90s.

“I would tell you, in my four and a half years serving alongside the president, I never heard or witnessed behavior of that nature,” he said.

Moreover, Pence said that the possibility that the Republican Party’s leader sexually assaulted a woman was just a distraction, “just one more story focusing on my former running mate that I know is a great fascination to members of the national media, but I just don’t think is where the American people are focused.”

Pence is presumably running for president in 2024. He has every reason to tear down Trump as much as he can – Trump is his top competition for the GOP nod! And yet this is the most outrage he could muster after the verdict.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is House Republicans’ loudest and most vocal opponent of LGBTQ+ rights. She filed a bill to ban trans kids from getting gender-affirming care and make it more difficult for even trans adults to get that care, she has claimed that trans women are “replacing women,” and she has accused a trans woman of being a pedophile with no evidence other than her identity. Her public statements for years have been full of attacks on trans women, painting herself, a cis woman, as a potential victim of trans women’s very existence.

But instead of condemning Trump, shortly after the verdict was announced she posted a picture of herself laughing with Trump and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson (who has also been accused of creating a misogynist working environment).

Even the Trump campaign doesn’t think that Republican voters care about sexual assault. Instead of advising Trump on how to avoid the topic at a scheduled CNN town hall tonight, Politico reports that his campaign is hoping to fundraise off the verdict.

This isn’t the result of Republicans sitting down, sifting through the evidence, and coming to a dispassionately reasoned conclusion that Carroll is wrong. The jury, who actually sat through the trial and listened to the facts, agreed that it happened. Trump chose not to testify at the trial and what he said during the deposition was fairly self-incriminating. And at least two dozen women have accused Trump of sexual impropriety, including one who was a 13-year-old child at the time of the assault.

If Republicans don’t believe Carroll, it’s hard to imagine a victim they could ever believe.

The right’s argument that trans people must be denied equal rights for the safety of cis women was a lie in more ways than one. Not only do the supposed consequences of trans equality legislation never materialize, but the people arguing that they will don’t actually care about women’s safety.

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