Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has signed onto the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” an anti-transgender rights manifesto that invokes the separate-but-equal doctrine for women.
“Feminism, once understood as the way to promote equality for women, is today disintegrating into an identity crisis of its own making,” the Mississippi attorney general said in a statement on Aug. 18. “But it is not only legitimate for women to have a space of their own in which to grow and thrive, it is good for society to carve out that safe space for women to engage with one another in athletics, education, fellowship, and sometimes even in healing.”
The text of the manifesto says that the law should only recognize “biological sex,” designating a “female” as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and a “male” as “an individual whose reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.”
On Aug. 19, Human Rights Campaign Mississippi State Director Rob Hill told WLBT that the Women’s Bill of Rights “is not pro-woman.”
“This is pro-oppression. Our attorney general is not pro-woman,” he said. “Efforts like this or stunts like this, I should say, are pro-oppression and pro-bigotry because that’s all that they succeed in.”
‘Separate Is Not Inherently Unequal’
The Women’s Bill of Rights includes nine points. The fifth says that “when it comes to sex, ‘equal’ does not mean ‘same’ or ‘identical.’” The sixth says that “when it comes to sex, separate is not inherently unequal.”
“Separate-but-equal” is the doctrine the U.S. Supreme Court used to uphold racial segregation in the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Southern white supremacists used separate-but-equal to force white and Black citizens to attend separate schools, patronize different businesses and even to use separate water fountains. The Women’s Bill of Rights argues that keeping some facilities and organizations separated by biological sex is socially necessary.
“There are legitimate reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other areas where biology, safety, and/or privacy are implicated,” the document says.
In it, Fitch argues for forcing transgender people to use facilities or organizations that match their sex as assigned at birth, not their gender identity. For example, the document maintains that a transgender man whose original birth certificate identified him as female should only be allowed to use restrooms designated for women.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Sponsors Bill
The Women’s Bill of Rights is a project of Independent Women’s Voice, a right-wing 501(c)(4) advocacy organization that has often aligned with Republican politicians. In 2012, the organization spent more than $67,000 to help Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, who infamously claimed claimed that rape victims cannot get pregnant because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
IWV is the sister group to Independent Women’s Forum, which began in 1992 as an outgrowth of “Women For Judge Thomas,” a group that formed to support Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court amid allegations of sexual harassment.
In May, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, introduced legislation titled the “Women’s Bill of Rights” on behalf of the organization and its allies. U.S. House Rep. Michael Guest, another Mississippi Republican, is a co-sponsor of the Women’s Bill of Rights in the U.S. House.
“The radical left chips away at women’s rights each time they disregard the biological differences between males and females,” she said in a statement on May 20, 2022. “This resolution reaffirms those unique differences, and seeks to protect women’s rights whether it is in athletics, prisons, or domestic violence shelters.”
Hyde-Smith’s statement included a list of organizations that support the resolution: Independent Women’s Voice, Independent Women’s Law Center, Concerned Women For America LAC, Heritage Action For America, American Principles Project, Women’s Liberation Front, Family Policy Alliance, Eagle Forum, Conservative Political Action Committee and Women’s Declaration International USA.
The Eagle Forum is an organization founded by anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly that led the fight to stop the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to say that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Schlafly’s organization claimed that ratifying the ERA would lead to unintended consequences, like allowing men to use women’s restrooms.
Mississippi Passed Trans Sports Ban
The Women’s Bill of Rights website shows that more than 8,800 people have signed the manifesto as of Aug. 22, 2022, including Mississippi Sen. Angela Hill, a Republican who represents the State’s 40th Senate District.
In 2021, Hill introduced a bill that banned transgender students in Mississippi from participating in school sports teams that match their gender identity. Gov Tate Reeves signed it into law last year. The law was based on model legislation that the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing Christian legal organization, wrote and shared with Republican lawmakers across the country. ADF has written other legislation that became law in the state, too, including Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Anti-transgender efforts accelerated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender employees from sex-based discrimination. Two conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts, joined four liberals to deliver that 6-3 opinion in Bostock v. Clayton.
“Too often, radical activists attack and try to silence anyone who speaks the truth about biological sex differences,” Fitch, who in 2020 became Mississippi’s first woman attorney general, said in her Aug. 18 statement on the Women’s Bill of Rights. “By supporting the Women’s Bill of Rights, AG Fitch has demonstrated that she is willing to stand up for equal opportunity, for common sense, and for science.”
Fitch became Mississippi’s first woman attorney general after voters elected her in 2019. After oral arguments in December 2021, she succeeded in convincing a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states like Mississippi to implement near-total abortion bans. Fitch has repeatedly described the downfall of Roe v. Wade as an opportunity to “empower women” and “promote life.”