Even as he tried to promote Donald Trump's bad lip service on anti-Semitism, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could not help but slip in some anti-LGBTQ bigotry at his daily briefing, erasing crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation from Trump's late and generic denunciations, and telling another reporter that transgender civil rights should be left to the states.
Donald Trump finally got around to denouncing the latest wave of anti-Semitism which has swept the country, but even as the White House attempted to bolster that meager lip service, it managed to demonstrate another form of bigotry.
Responding to questions about Trump’s delayed reaction (following multiple opportunities at national press conferences), White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer twice failed to include gender identity or sexual orientation as traits that should not be targets of hate:
Very forcefully against those who are seeking to do hate, or to tear people down because of their religion, or their gender, or the color of their skin. Those are all things I think the president is done.
People who seek to attack people because of their hate, excuse me, because of their religion, because of their gender, or because of the color of their skin. And that’s something he is going to continue to fight.
It is important to note that Spicer included “gender,” but not “gender identity,” which regularly excludes protections for individuals who are transgender and who are often the victims of violent hate crimes based on their trans identity.
In addition to those key omissions, Spicer also blew loudly on a familiar dog whistle, in response to The Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson’s question about the Obama administration’s guidance on the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students:
JOHNSON: Sean, the National Center for Transgender Equality, citing reliable sources, says the Trump administration, today, will rescind Obama-era guidance requiring schools to allow transgender kids to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. Will the Trump administration rescind that guidance?
SPICER: Right now, that’s an issue that the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are addressing. I will tell you that I think that there will be further guidance coming from DOJ in particular, with respect to not just the executive order, but also the case that’s in front of the Supreme Court. The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue, and not one for the federal government. So while there will be further guidance coming out on this, I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time, that this is not something the federal government should be involved in, this is a states’ rights issue.
Spicer is wrong, of course: The Obama-era guidance was in regard to an existing federal law, Title IX. But more broadly, the argument that civil rights should be left to the states is a longtime appeal to white supremacy. In erasing gender identity and sexual orientation as immutable traits, and leaving civil rights for transgender people up to the states, Spicer makes clear whose side this White House is on.
The performance was not lost on prominent civil rights leaders and organizations:
Did Trump's spokesman really just trot out the "states rights" line over protecting transgender kids at school? https://t.co/aK7WF9dndF
— Ben Jealous (@BenJealous) February 21, 2017
Trump @PressSec just said protecting trans kids is "states' rights" issue.
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) February 21, 2017