Stonewall Inn Protestors Respond to Trump’s Transgender Bathroom Initiative

HOST INTRO: Demonstrators gathered at the historic Stonewall Inn yesterday evening to rally against President Trump’s rollback of transgender protections in public schools. A statement released yesterday from the White House said that returning power to the states quote “paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level, with input from parents, students, teachers, and administrators.” But some locals, and experts, aren’t so sure this should be left to the states. Camila Kerwin reports.

KERWIN 1: Yesterday evening, frustrated New Yorkers gathered at the iconic Stonewall Inn to share their input about the administration’s move:

KERWIN 3: 

So what does this mean to you right now? How are you feeling?

RENEE IMPERATO:

What does it mean to me? It means my survival.

KERWIN 2: Amid crowds of protesters holding signs reading “protect trans kids,” and “resist,” Renee Imperato stands out: she’s wearing a bright sweater covered in yellow peace signs, and fishnet stockings.

RENEE IMPERATO:

I’m a trans woman. I mean what does it mean to me? What do you think it means?

KERWIN 4: Imperato came out as trans 30 years ago. She remembers the day last summer that the Obama administration issued federal protections for trans students.

RENEE IMPERATO:

It was a good thing. Little late. 

KERWIN 5: Late or not, the rights for trans students might see a setback. President Trump says it’s not the federal government that should decide how transgender protections play out in public schools, but the states. Michael Freeman, a gay man who’s lived in New York for 10 years, isn’t buying it.

MICHAEL FREEMAN:

Oh no, I mean with any LGBT issues those are all civil rights and they should all be protected by the 14th Amendment. So they very much should be left to the federal government to make those decisions for us. 

KERWIN 7: The 14th Amendment: that’s the one that forbids states to restrict basic rights. “Equal protection of the laws,” “life, liberty and property.”

So, what is the difference between when a state gets to decide on policy, and when the federal government gets to decide? Bruce Ackerman teaches law and political science at Yale. He says the difference boils down to one word: humiliation.

BRUCE ACKERMAN:

It is a fundamental violation of the 14th Amendment to engage in systematic humiliation. 

KERWIN 8: The principle goes back to Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, the Supreme Court school segregation case which said: separate but equal isn’t good enough. Why? Because it was systematically humiliating for black students. Ackerman said it’s this same principle of anti-humiliation the Supreme Court used in its decision to legalize gay marriage.

As far as the types of decisions states can make? Ackerman says that’s all about implementation — how local institutions make rules that reflect federal principles. And it’s up to the Justice Department and federal courts to decide whether those decisions amount to systematic humiliation.

BRUCE ACKERMAN:

It is a key question to examine with high seriousness…Things are happening much too fast. This is serious business. 

KERWIN 9: This week, the New York City Department of Education issued a statement reiterating its vow to keep its current protocol in place, which allows students to use bathrooms and locker-rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Camila Kerwin, Columbia Radio News.

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