It is likely that my adopted state of Florida will pass a law banning transgender women from competing on women’s and girl’s school sports teams. This Republican bill explicitly endorses a rather invasive confirmation process: if an athlete’s eligibility is challenged, then they would need to get confirmation from a health care provider. This might involve an examination of their genitals. Yes, this is the same party that rages against mask mandates and vaccine passports as violations of rights.
On the face of it, these sorts of bills seem aimed at saying to the Republican base “we hate and fear transgender people as much as we think you do so keep voting for us.” Obviously enough, proponents of the bill do not make this claim; the argument they advance is that they must act because they are very concerned about women and girls being treated fairly. In fact, they call the bill the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.
Republicans profess to be the party of small government, but this bill would expand the involvement of the state and as noted above, would literally have agents of the state looking at genitals. I also profess to favor minimal government and have argued in other essays that the state should restrict its laws to cases in which the harm needs to be addressed by law and the good the law does meaningfully outweigh any harms or costs of the law. Those backing the law have been unable to point to cases in Florida where harm is occurring—so this is a law that is allegedly aimed at addressing a harm that has not occurred. While inconsistent with the small government and freedom values that Republicans profess to value, it is certainly consistent with their approach to voter rights: imposing restrictions where no meaningful harm exists. As such, the act would seem to be unwarranted by the professed principles of the Republicans. But perhaps they are motivated by this professed principle of fairness to women. Let us test this hypothesis.
If the Republicans hold to the principle that laws should be passed to ensure women are treated fairly, then one would predict that they would act to pass other laws aimed at addressing serious inequalities between men and women. One clear example of this is the persistent pay gap between men and women. In Florida, women make 85 cents for every dollar made by men. This is a clear harm being done to women, yet while the Republican controlled government of Florida has been busy with the transgender law, they seem uninterested in this pay gap. One could counter that this is a concern for the private sector, but one can then point to the gender pay gap in Florida government: something the government could and should address. One could also run down a checklist of the areas where women are treated unfairly relative to men and look for evidence that the Republican legislature has addressed these cases of unfairness. As such, the claim that they are motivated by concerns about fair treatment of women and girls is dubious. If they were truly motivated by this principle, they would be actively addressing the significant unfairness faced by women and girls.
It could be objected that their principles and motives do not matter—the rightness of the act should stand or fall on its own. On the one hand, that is a reasonable point: the goodness or correctness of something is not determined by the person making the claim. So, the Republicans could care less about fair treatment of women, but still be right about this proposed law.
One reply is to point out that there are norms of acting in good faith. Politics is, in theory, about considering the interests and values of the citizens and lawmakers. But to provide due consideration to values and interests, one needs to know what they are. If the Republicans are making their case in bad faith, then they are engaged in deception: they are attempting to get others to provide them with due consideration based on lies.
The second reply is that the law is wrong on its own merits, something I have addressed in a previous essay. There is also, as noted above, the fact that the act is a proposed law looking for a problem to address and this is bad law making based on the professed principles of the Republicans making the law. As such, they should just be honest about their motivations for this act and their actual intentions.