In a fiery exchange during a House Oversight Subcommittee on Health session Tuesday, NCAA swimming champion Riley Gaines countered Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., after Lee labeled testimonies opposing transgender males in women’s sports as “transphobic.”
This clash comes as the debate intensifies over the Biden administration’s proposed changes to Title IX, which would redefine sexual discrimination to encompass gender identity.
Gaines, an acclaimed swimmer and advocate for women’s sports, responded to Lee’s characterization of the testimonies with a firm stance.
“There’s a place for everybody to play sports in this country,” Gaines said, acknowledging the inclusion of transgender individuals.
Yet, she firmly asserted, “But unsafe, unfair and discriminatory practices must stop.” Gaines continued, stressing the necessity of balancing inclusion with safety and fairness in sports.
Gaines proceeded to slam Lee stating in a bold retort:
“Inclusion cannot be prioritized over safety and fairness. And ranking member Lee, if my testimony makes me ‘transphobic,’ then I believe your opening monologue makes you a misogynist.”
Lee then pounced and demanded that Gaines’ remarks be struck for “engaging in personalities” rather than the substance of the debate:
“I move to have the gentlewoman’s words taken down.”
As Jonathan Turley details, what followed was hurried consultation and presumably a few explanations for Lee on why witnesses are allowed to respond to such attacks by a member.
Lee then withdrew her demand.
Rule XVII, clause 1(b) prohibits Members from engaging in “personalities.” That is a rule cited to the Speaker or chair to bar personal attacks from other members that are deemed unparliamentary. There is no definition of what words are considered to be violative of the rule.
However, Lee was attempting to use this against a witness who was defending herself against her own personal attack. It is a dangerous extension. Members of Congress generally are protected under the “speech or debate” clause in Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution. The privilege protects legislative proceedings and generally does not apply to news releases, speeches and other public comments. This was the holding in Hutchinson v. Proxmire, when Sen. Proxmire was found to be acting outside of the clause in making media comments regarding his golden fleece award.
Members often knowingly make defamatory comments in congressional debates, but then decline to repeat those same words in public to avoid any legal accountability. I faced that tactic in representing Dr. Eric Foretich in the Elizabeth Morgan controversy. Members would say false and defamatory claims about my client on the floor, but would carefully avoid repeating those claims in interviews. My challenge to the Elizabeth Morgan Act took years before it was struck down as an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. However, we could not bring a defamation action due to members using the Speech and Debate Clause as a shield.
That would create a nightmarish combination if members are protected from actions in defaming witnesses but then can censor them when they defend themselves.
The fact that Lee’s immediate response was to censor a person who she had just attacked is telling.
After labeling Gaines a hateful bigot, Lee did not believe that she should be allowed to denounce Lee’s own comments as an attack on women.
It shows the slippery slope of censorship.
Democrats have embraced an anti-free speech agenda to silence opposing viewpoints. That desire becomes insatiable even as citizens seek to rebut personal attacks from members in a congressional hearing.
Watch the full exchange below:
This is great. After being called transphobic for saying men shouldn’t be able to compete pretending they are women @Riley_Gaines_ throws Democrats into an uproar by saying they are misogynists for making this argument. Watch them scramble: pic.twitter.com/DheMbGDXvS
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) December 5, 2023
The backdrop of this dispute is the Biden administration’s proposed amendment to Title IX, aimed at expanding its scope to include gender identity, which would prevent educational institutions from banning transgender athletes from competition.
Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., chairwoman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Health, expressed the gravity of this issue. McClain
“Congress must do everything it can to protect women’s sports,” she told Fox Digital News.
She further criticized the proposed changes, stating, “The Biden administration is putting women’s safety, privacy and opportunities at risk by dismantling Title IX.”
McClain is organizing a hearing, “The Importance of Protecting Female Athletics and Title IX,” where Gaines, alongside other notable figures such as Sarah Parshall Perry of the Heritage Foundation and Kim Russell, former women’s lacrosse coach at Oberlin College, will testify. This hearing aims to delve into how the Biden administration’s proposed changes could impact fairness and protection for women in sports.
Gaines, a two-time Olympic trial participant, has been a vocal opponent of the inclusion of biological male athletes in women’s sports. She previously condemned the proposed Title IX revisions in June, terming the “rewrite” of the policy as “an abomination.”
Gaines’ strong stance and remarks reflect a strong belief held by many in America for the need to uphold the original intent of Title IX, which was to ensure equitable opportunities and safety for women in sports.
Gaines is backing her position with her own funds. On Monday, Gaines responded to two biological men winning first and second place at the Illinois Cyclocross State Championships over the weekend, stating “Any woman who concedes and doesn’t compete, I will personally pay them the prize money they’re missing out on. Stop participating in the farce.”
Two men take 1st & 2nd at the Illinois State Cyclocross Championships yesterday. @usacycling has 2 categories for men and none for women
Any woman who concedes and doesn't compete, I will personally pay them the prize money they're missing out on. Stop participating in the farce pic.twitter.com/MbFc2av95y
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) December 4, 2023
This contentious issue will continue to spark debate as women battle for the integrity of women’s athletics, with figures like Gaines advocating for what they see as vital protections for female athletes.
Wed, 12/06/2023 - 16:20