Undressing Freedom

Debra J. Saunders

7/7/2001 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- California State Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, was furious about Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle story on her bill, AB1649, which would give employment and housing protections to transsexuals, transgender people and people whose behavior is "different from that traditionally associated with a person's sex at birth." "The story makes it sound like this covers a cross-dresser," she said in her office Tuesday. "It doesn't cover cross-dressing at all. It covers a person who is a transgendered individual, and it covers very straight men and women who don't fit the stereotypes of their gender, women who are too aggressive, men who are too effeminate." She added: "This has nothing to do with the gay and lesbian community at all." (Sure. The bill only would protect straight aggressive women and straight effeminate men.) It's a sure sign that a bill stinks when its author can't talk straight about it. A Goldberg fact sheet said that charges that the bill would make employers hire "men in dresses" were "ridiculous and unfounded." Yet she told me the bill would protect men in skirts if they feel they are women. An assembly analysis states that AB1649 prohibits discrimination based on such traits as "a person's personality, clothing, hairstyle, speech, mannerisms, demeanor, or secondary sex characteristics such as vocal pitch, facial hair or the size of shape of a person's body." Also, Goldberg told me most cases resulting from her bill would involve women who weren't promoted because they're too aggressive. No need. The law already protects those women. Ask Christine Craft, the former Kansas City anchorwoman who sued her station because it fired her for being "too old, too ugly and not deferential to men." Now a Sacramento attorney, Craft said, "There already are remedies in the law." Craft added: "There's a difference between blatant discrimination and discretion. There's an important line. There are freedoms on both sides of this question." Not that you would know that by Goldberg. She sees the freedom for a man to wear a dress -- although Goldberg only wants to protect that freedom if the man wants to be a woman. She does not see the freedom of an employer to say she doesn't want to hire men who wear dresses because it would violate her idea of professional conduct. She lauded the freedom for people to be who they are, but when asked if she would support job protections for, say, devout Christians, she said, no: "They can choose to exercise or not exercise it. You cannot choose to not be transgender." Where's the tolerance? What happened to letting people be who they are? Goldberg talked touchingly of the difficult lives of transgender people. She's right when she says no one would choose to be painfully alienated from one's gender at birth. But it's hard to hear her soft words about the plight of transgenders and transsexuals when she shows no sympathy for good-faith employers who fear laws that might force them to hire people whose personalities, clothing and mannerisms get in the way of the job. It says much about the sorry state of the legislature that the assembly has approved her bill, and late Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it as well. In so doing, Sacto Dems have shown contempt for the rights of employers and landlords to, as Craft put it, exercise their discretion. They care so much about fairness that they've forgotten about rights. They're so intent on legislating fairness in every corner of public life (that involves liberals) that it's not enough to pass laws against discrimination based on homosexuality or gender. Now they want laws that address mannerisms and vocal pitch.