Republicans Turn Judicial Nominee’s Hearing Into Transphobic Spectacle
Senator Ted Cruz was among the GOP senators who fueled unsubstantiated and transphobic allegations during a Senate Justice Committee hearing Wednesday. (Photo: Pool via Getty Images)
Holly Thomas, President Joe Biden's election for a lifelong seat in a powerful U.S. appeals court, received her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
But the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee decided to put something else at the center of the hearing: their own transphobia.
One at a time, the GOP senators used their allotted time to question with Thomas, a civil rights attorney appointed to a seat in California on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District, to investigate a month-long sexual assault case at a. to speak of high school in Loudoun County, Virginia.
In the attack in May, a teenager allegedly attacked a 14-year-old girl in a school toilet. Conservative media taped the incident after the victim's parents claimed the attacker was "gender neutral" and had worn a skirt during the attack. The authorities have not confirmed any of these details.
The victim's parents also criticized the school's policy allowing students to use public toilets that match their gender identity, suggesting that the policy facilitated an attack. But at the time of the alleged attack, that rule was not in effect, the Washington Post reported. More importantly, there are already laws in place protecting people from criminal behavior in public toilets, and there is no evidence that gender-segregated toilets are safer than unisex toilets.
The teenager was allowed to move to another school after the incident and sexually abused a second girl in a classroom in October. He has since been arrested and charged, and Loudoun County school officials have apologized for the way they handled the situation.
There is no evidence that the teen was wearing a skirt or identified as gender neutral or transgender at the time of the attack. In fact, these allegations appear to stem from the victim's father saying he heard the boy was "apparently bisexual and occasionally wears dresses," according to an October 19 report by Media Matters.
But on Wednesday, Senate Republicans went ahead and used the incident to spread the false story that girls are unsafe in bathrooms shared with transgender women.
"Last week we learned that Loudoun County's Virginia Schools Board was covering up the fact that a man wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in the school's girls' bathroom," said Senator Chuck Grassley (R. -Iowa), the top Republican on the committee.
"In 2016 you argued in several briefs that concerns about the safety of young girls in school toilets were unfounded," he told Thomas. "Given the troubling news about Loudoun County, do you still believe that safety and privacy concerns, especially for young girls, are [not] legitimate in school toilets?"
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, parroted transphobic rhetoric when he asked one of President Biden's judicial candidates Holly Thomas. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images)
Thomas, who is currently a judge on the LA County Supreme Court and previously worked for the Department of Justice's civil rights division, said she was a special advisor to the New York attorney general's office in 2016, and the briefs she filed at the time represented the views of her client . She said she was unfamiliar with the Loudoun County case.
"As a judge, I know that it's my job to put everything I've done as a lawyer aside and just let the law guide me," said Thomas. "That, I promise you, is what I do now and what I will continue to do when it is confirmed."
But Grassley kept talking about Loudoun County. He referred to a letter Thomas submitted in 2016 to oppose North Carolina policies at the time that banned transgender people from using public toilets that matched their gender identity. Thomas argued in the letter that privacy curtains and separate changing rooms are enough to keep the girls safe.
"How did privacy curtains or dressing rooms prevent the sexual assault in Loudoun County?" Grassley asked before admitting that Thomas didn't even know about the case.
"I guess you said you didn't know much about it," he added, seeming to betray the game that Republicans just want to keep the story on the news: "It's really about getting the news here, so am I come to another question. "
The Republicans certainly seemed to have voted in advance to keep the Loudoun County incident in focus - and to fuel the transphobia around it.
"Do you agree with your comments in these  briefs that there is no evidence of violence or crime in toilets by allowing biological men to use biological women's toilets?" Asked Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
"You shouldn't miss how unsettled the Tennessee people I represent are from your nomination because of your comments about transgender rights and the abuse in Loudoun County," said Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). "People want to know that their children are safe."
"Let me just go back to what Senator Hawley was talking about," said Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, referring to one of her 2016 bathroom briefs.
"They said, 'In states where nondiscrimination is already a law, Texas' 'the predicted security harm never happened'. Said Lee. "Under these circumstances, how would anyone know ... that no harm can ever occur?"
Thomas responded to Lee when she told the other GOP senators that she was representing her clients in these cases.
"You know about the latest incident that came to light in Loudoun County?" asked Lee.
"Well, I wasn't until this morning," said Thomas.
So why did Republicans want to keep talking about a sexual assault case in a Virginia school, especially when Thomas said she didn't even know about it?
One possible reason is that the Virginia Governor's race is in a dead heat less than two weeks before the election. Shaking up GOP voters by stoking transphobia is one way to get them to the polls and tip them when they vote. It's hard to take it as a coincidence that national conservative media reinforce this narrative while GOP senators oddly made it the focus of a hearing for a California seat candidate.
It seems that women and girls never have rights.
Senator Ted Cruz, a proud supporter of Texas’s extreme anti-abortion law.
In a moment of underrated irony, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lamented during the hearing that "women and girls never seem to have rights" - just weeks after saying he was "proud" of Texas' extreme opposition - Abortion Law, SB 8.
Cruz also asked if Thomas was telling the truth because he was unaware of the sexual assault incident in Loudoun County.
"You testified before this committee that you didn't know what happened in Loudoun County until this morning," he said. "I find this remarkable for someone who has spent years as a leading activist enabling organic transgender men to use girls' and women's toilets."
Cruz continued to speak after his time was up, but Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Who chaired the committee at the time, cut him off.
"Since no other members are expected to question," said Padilla as Cruz tried to throw in more criticism of Thomas, "let me thank Judge Thomas for appearing before us today."
Thomas is now waiting for her not yet scheduled vote in the committee.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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