Of Princesses, Horned Owls and Transgender Discrimination

Barbie Princesses

Whether or not the president is exceeding his constitutional authority through regulation and guidance that is properly the domain of the legislature is a serious matter. But there was little evidence of that seriousness at a task force hearing yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee.

Back in February, Republicans on the committee authorized a special, six-month task force to examine what it characterized as “executive overreach” by the Obama administration. Yesterday, the task force held a hearing that dissolved into a shouting match that had to be gaveled down by the chairman.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the task force chairman, opened the hearing in the usual way, railing against the burdensome regulations overwhelming businesses. But the subject quickly turned to recent guidance directing public schools to treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations.

King described this guidance as an “egregious” example of executive overreach, clearly shocked that the government would allow “anatomical boys” to use the same locker rooms as “anatomical girls.”

His outrage was joined by Gail Heriot, professor at the University of San Diego’s School of Law and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Heriot described the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as “out of control” and its pronouncements in no way tethered to actual law.

Heriot decried the horrors of the federal government’s one-size-fits-all solution to the transgender discrimination problem, which she urged should be the domain of local school systems.

But Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) was having none of it. Allowing as how she usually did not “call out witnesses,” Lofgren proceeded to read from Heriot’s prepared testimony:

“We are teaching young people a terrible lesson,” Lofgren read. “I believe that I am a Russian princess. That doesn’t make me a Russian princess, even if my friends and acquaintances are willing to indulge my fantasy. Nor am I a great horned owl, just because, as I have been told, I happen to share some personality traits with those feathered creatures,” she read.

Great Horned Owl

Lofgren said she found this testimony “highly offensive,” and instead said the guidance will help schools across the country prevent the harassment and violence that transgender children find too often.

Heriot responded that “many people find it very offensive that the Department of Education—” before being cut off Lofgren shouting, “I think you’re a bigot, lady. I think you’re an ignorant bigot.”

This prompted King to pound his gavel and call the whole mess out of order. Which it was.