Do you remember Anita Bryant? She became a household name in the late 1970s when she sought to repeal a recently-passed anti-discrimination ordinance in Miami. She founded an organization she called “Save Our Children,” and capitalized on fear mongering about the fact that gay men and lesbian women would now be allowed to teach in public elementary schools. “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children,” she said. (For more, see this short video.)
By now you’re probably wondering what merited this history lesson. Well, I thought we’d finally started to move away from this sort of extreme rhetoric, and that the opposition to LGBTQ rights was at least trying to sound more sophisticated. Nope. I appear to have engaged in some wishful thinking.
It seems Michelle Duggar is the voice behind a robocall that went out yesterday about tonight’s county council vote on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayettville, Arkansas. You can listen here:
Here is the text, for those not interested in listening:
Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children. The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool’s private changing area?
And there it is, the same disgusting fear mongering Anita Bryant engaged in nearly forty years ago. And you know what? The anti-discrimination ordinance is essentially the same thing Miami passed (and then repealed) nearly forty years ago—it would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in employment, housing, and etc. But no, Michelle Duggar would prefer a world where people can be fired for being gay or evicted for being transgender.
And Michelle Duggar isn’t the only one going full Anita Bryant.
Jeremy Flanagan, pastor at Pathway Baptist Church in Fayetteville, said protections based on gender identity could lead to women going topless at public swimming pools, men using women’s restrooms, or women entering men’s dressing rooms. He also said if the ordinance is passed, it would be “opening a door” for pedophiles and sexual predators who wish to abuse people.
This is utterly ridiculous. It’s been forty years, people. Forty years. It’s time for them to cut the scare mongering and stop using little children as shields for their bigotry. But then, it’s probably easier to talk about trumped-up threats to small children then it is to say their real intentions—ensuring that people can fire or evict LGBTQ individuals at will—out loud. You know what? It’s not just LGBTQ individuals who deserve better—our children deserve better too.
Note: As commenters have pointed out, there is no evidence of transgender women (or cisgender men operating under a nondiscrimination ordinance) assaulting anyone in women’s restrooms. Further, transgender people are 400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the general public.