How an Assassin and a Racist Helped Further Transgender Rights…

How an Assassin and a Racist Helped Further Transgender Rights… 

This year is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights bill, which was the basis for the Macy V. Eric Holder decision where the EEOC ruled in favor of Macy, saying that discrimination based on someone changing their gender is a form of sex stereotyping under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   

Originally, “sex” was not part of the Civil Rights Act, which focused primarily on rights for black Americans.   In an effort to torpedo the bill, Rep Howard Smith, D-VA, then chairman of the House of Representatives rules committee, added the term “sex” to follow religion to the original Act language.    Smith, a racist and active segregationist, hoped that adding language relating to women’s rights would increase opposition to the bill from misogynistic House members.   In general, House members hoping to stop the Act supported the amendment, while those in favor of the Act generally voted against it.   The debate over the “sex” amendment was short and filled with dismissive and joking comments regarding the status of women and gender.   At the end of the debate, the amendment passed by a narrow margin, 168 to 133.   Some researchers such as Freeman attribute passage to the National Women’s Organization, however their lobbying ability would have been described as “weak as best.” 

Passage of the bill looked unlikely, however the assassination of President Kennedy served as the emotional lever that his very skilled and ruthless successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, used to force the Civil Rights Act through Congress. Citing opposition to the Act as an action dishonoring the slain President, Johnson was able to get a positive vote.   Had Kennedy not been killed by an assassin, it is very possible that the Act would not have been passed in 1964.     While the tide of history would have ultimately produced some variant of the Civil Rights Act with a provision preventing discrimination based on sex (gender) it was these two unlikely events that combined to produce what would eventually culminate in the Macy V. Holder decision and president Obama’s executive order preventing transgender discrimination in the Federal government.    History works in strange and unlikely ways.   

Jenni Contrisciani




Posted on July 9, 2014, in Civil Rights, Management & Business, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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