Woke Democrats Wage War on Women’s Shelters

May 29, 2019

by Leo Thuman


Democrats were quite busy last week, finding ample opportunity to enjoy their favorite hobby — harassing the president. These hijinks notably included meeting to impeach President Trump, and then behaving as if they were shocked that the President didn’t want to discuss infrastructure with them on that very same day. Yet, their penchant for pandering to their intersectionality-obsessed base still needed to be satisfied. So, after expounding their radical views on gender ideology, some Democrats (ironically including Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va.) have called HUD Secretary Ben Carson a liar for changing an Obama administration rule regarding discrimination in federally funded shelters.

While a bona fide cornucopia of smears alleging ‘dishonesty’ and ‘transphobia’ have been hurled by House members at Carson, they have suppressed any discussion of what the new rule actually does. The previous Obama-era regulation forced shelter operators to accept the government’s demand to allow access to gender-divided facilities on the basis of any person’s gender self-identification, without any regard to conflicts with organizational values and safety concerns. By contrast, the new rule is a great improvement, allowing shelter operators and staff to base restroom and dormitory access upon factors such as biological sex, religious values, safety, and privacy. Moreover, this rule is highly consistent with this administration’s respect for federalist principles, clarifying that it applies only when it doesn’t conflict with state and local laws.

The issue it addresses is also a serious one. While leftists are devotedly waging a war against an effective gender paradigm that has never previously been deemed unsuitable, this is an area where they ought to practice some flexibility. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, homeless women have a 78 percent chance of being raped in their lifetime. This is nearly triple the rate of rapes inflicted on women in general. Without families, financial resources, and little trust in the justice system, homeless women are easier targets for sexual predators, and less likely to report to the authorities when they are victimized.

Indeed, in addition to conservatives, some feminists have also expressed concern about the prospects of men manipulating ‘pro-trans’ legislation to sexually assault women, or record them in private, traditionally female spaces. Particularly poignant are the concerns of Julia Beck, a feminist intellectual who gave powerful testimony against the Equality Act. Her statement to Congress last month summarized well the varied dangers it poses to the rights of women, including the relevant concern that women “survivors of rape will be unable to contest male presence in women’s shelters.”  Fortunately, the new HUD rule is an important correction in favor of women’s safety and against reckless disregard for a woman’s right to safety in traditionally female spaces.

Therefore, allowing shelter operators practice of discretion in deciding who can access women’s facilities on the basis of “privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations” is eminently reasonable. The Obama-era rule was repressive and gave shelters, even when serious issues of assault and trespass exist, little rights to ensure the safety of their patrons, who are amongst the most vulnerable members of society. Now, rather than being stifled by fear of bad actors suing frivolously for discrimination, the good people who serve the homeless can enact measures they have always wished were in place to protect those they serve.

Nevertheless, the social re-definitionists who are insurgent in the Democratic Party’s activist base are likely to fight this rule change with all their vigor. Soundbites and platitudes are what they prefer to traffic in, rather than good policy or responsible governance. In a similar vein, the re-writing of an HHS regulation to defend provider rights and ethical imperatives in abortion or gender conversion operations, will likely draw yet more controversy. This is because redefining gender overrules any practical considerations amongst the most vocal and active subset of the progressive movement, even when lives are at stake. That’s why it is especially important that conservatives stand athwart history and yell “stop,” by standing with President Trump in assertion of conscience rights, biological science, and American principles.


Leo Thuman works for American Principles Project.

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