Seventy religious leaders have signed a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressing “dismay” at his statement urging Arkansan’s to disregard the guidance from the Obama administration that the law protects transgender people from discrimination. Specifically, they should be allowed to use public facilities that align with their gender.
The letter did give the governor credit for discouraging introduction of legislation at a recent legislative session that reportedly would have criminalized people who entered restrooms designated for a gender other than their birth gender. The governor said then he didn’t want the brief special session disrupted, but said he’d consider legislation aimed at transgender people in January.
Rev. Gwen Fry and Rabbi Barry Block delivered the letter to the governor’s office Friday afternoon. From a release:
Fry, an Episcopal priest, emphasized that countless transgender women have been the victims of violence when they have used public restrooms. “Violence, including sexual violence, in restrooms is a serious problem. Transgender women in women’s restrooms, though, are not the perpetrators, nor are transgender men in men’s restrooms. Moreover, no evidence exists to support the claim that men pose as atransgender woman in order to be ‘peeping toms’ or worse in women’s restrooms.”
Block added, “I am grateful to the scores of Arkansas clergy who joined Rev. Fry and me in taking a public stand against bigotry and discrimination. Too often, folks get the impression that being religious means discriminating against our relatives, friends,coworkers and members of our congregations who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This letter is a powerful statement that LGBT Arkansans are loved and embraced in many Arkansas houses of worship, where all people are celebrated as persons created in the image of God.”
The letter is a response to a statement from conservative preachers who cheered Hutchinson’s apparent support for discrimination against transgender people.
Clergy who signed the letter said they’d work with the governor for a solution that “respects the rights of all Arkansans, including those who are transgender and those who are troubled by sharing a restroom with transgender persons.”