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Fox News Fear Mongers About CA’s Transgender Protection Bill

June 03, 2011 3:23 pm ET by Carlos Maza

If there’s one thing Fox Nation isn’t known for, it’s keeping it classy when it comes to discussing transgender people.

Case in point, this doozy of a headline and picture posted on June 2:

[Fox Nation, accessed 6/3/11]

The post linked to a FoxNews.com article attacking AB 887, a California bill that would enhance the state’s current laws prohibiting anti-transgender discrimination.

The FoxNews.com article sets the bar low by beginning with a total fabrication:

A California bill working its way through the state legislature providing more protection for transgender individuals in the workplace could allow for cross-dressing employees to wear whatever they want to work, despite workplace dress codes. [emphasis added]

Even a quick glance over the actual text of AB 887 reveals that this isn’t true. Indeed, the bill retains the section of California’s Government Code that states that employers may enforce “workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards.” California Government Code Section 12949 currently says:

Nothing in this part relating to gender-based discrimination affects the ability of an employer to require an employee to adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards not precluded by other provisions of state or federal law, provided that an employer shall allow an employee to appear or dress consistently with the employee's gender identity. 

AB 887 would amend Section 12949 to add “or gender expression” at the end, so that the section would read:

12949. Nothing in this part relating to gender-based discrimination affects the ability of an employer to require an employee to adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards not precluded by other provisions of state or federal law, provided that an employer shall allow an employee to appear or dress consistently with the employee’s gender identity or gender expression. [italics in the original]

In fact, AB 887 wouldn’t actually create new protections for transgender Californians – it would only reaffirm and clarify already-established non-discrimination laws. As Equality California explains:

Current California laws protect people from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.  California non-discrimination laws define "gender" to mean sex including a person's gender identity (how they see themselves) and gender expression (how other people see them).

[…]

AB 887 will take existing protections based on gender identity and expression and enumerates these protected categories in specified non-discrimination laws. By making these protections explicit, people will more clearly understand California’s nondiscrimination laws.

Of course, you wouldn’t learn any of this by reading Fox’s article.

The ways Fox tells it, AB 887 will usher in a dark age of cross-dressing employees who violate dress codes and scare away customers and their children.

Fox turned to Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, for commentary on the bill:

"If you talk to the average (human resources) manager and ask if there would be any disturbances if a man came dressed as a woman one week and then as a man the next, I think the (HR) rep would say 'yeah, this would be disruptive to the workplace,' " said Brad Daucus, a California attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “It will inherently cause customers to be uncomfortable and not want to do business.” 

[…]

"If you have a mother taking her son to a store for back-to-school shopping and the retail clerk is a man dressed like a woman, the mother is going to take her son and go to another store," said Daucus. 

You might remember Dacus – who is not a human resources manager – from a week ago, when Fox invited him on the air to rail about how a school’s lessons on gender diversity was a form of “indoctrination” that would cause “gender confusion.”

His group, the Pacific Justice Institute, has been at the forefront of criticizing efforts to combat homophobia and violence against the LGBT community. The group has fought against hate crime legislation, railed against a bill that would teach kids about LGBT history, opposed national “Name Calling Week,” and condemned efforts to teach students not to use “gay” and “lesbian” as insults.

Fox’s bias is also obvious when one considers the language used to describe those affected by the bill. The article refers to cross-dressing five times, but only use the word “transgender” twice (barring quotes and the names of organizations).

By focusing almost exclusively on cross-dressing, Fox is able inflate ridiculous horror stories about employees who on any given day may choose to dress up as an entirely different gender:

May, an assistant director for a Christian-run daycare center in Calif., who did not want to give her last name or the name of her day care, agrees that the law could have an impact.

"Even if we change our hair, the kids notice right away. If one day a teacher comes dressed like a man and then the next day as a woman, the kids will wonder 'What's going on?'"

This kind of fear mongering is meant to distract away from the very real discrimination faced by transgender employees in America. A recent study found that 90 percent of transgender respondents reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job, while 47 percent reported experiencing an adverse job outcome because of their gender identity/expression.

Furthermore, the FoxNews.com article doesn’t once mention the fact that AB 887 would also work to prohibit to housing discrimination, a major problem for transgender Americans. Nor does it mention that the bill passed through the State Assembly with overwhelming support.

Instead, Fox was concerned with telling a sensationalist story about men wearing dresses and confusing kids at day care.

Considering Fox’s history of anti-LGBT bias and misinformation, this kind of “journalism” really is just par for the course.  

Previously:

Fox Goes After Sesame Street’s Supposed “Assault” On America’s “Moral Foundation”

Second Fox Guest Bashes CA Diversity Program For Creating “Gender Confusion”

Rolling Stone: Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes Afraid Of Being Attacked By “Those Gays”