Maya Dillard Smith has resigned as head of Georgia’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter in connection with Obama’s recent directive to schools to let transgender students use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, rather than their biological sex. Smith complained that there was an unwillingness on the part of the ACLU to hear her concerns or open a dialogue with regard to the debate surrounding trans rights. She states:
“There are real concerns about the safety of women and girls in regards to this bathroom debate… It seems to me that instead of stifling the dialogue, we want to encourage a robust debate to come up with an effective solution.”
Smith added, “It’s through communication that we develop empathy and understanding, and I think that our democracy requires us to allow for exchange of ideas, without people being labeled one thing or another.”
The ACLU of North Carolina has launched a federal lawsuit over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), calling it a “hateful measure.” HB2 mandates people use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender stated on their birth certificate. (In North Carolina, a person can have their birth certificate changed to match their gender identity if they have sex reassignment surgery.)
Smith criticized the ACLU for prioritizing trans rights above the rights of women and girls, calling the non-profit “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights.” She implied there were financial incentives at play, saying, “In that way, it is a special interest organization not unlike the conservative right, which creates a hierarchy of rights based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities.”
Smith also argued that transgender rights have “intersectionality with other competing rights, particularly the implications for women’s rights.”
Smith has since launched a website called “Finding Middle Ground,” in an effort to provide space for productive dialogue about preventing discrimination against trans people, while also respecting the safety and rights of women and girls.
“I believe there are solutions that can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent,” she said.