State lawmakers take issue with Dispatch's LGBTQ editorial

State Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill, Ryan Aument and Scott Martin and state Rep. Dawn Keefer
Audience members wave Pride flags while a parent speaks during the public comment period of the Central Bucks School District meeting in May 2022.

As elected officials, we are certainly no strangers to criticism. In fact, healthy and vigorous debate often leads to better results for the people we represent.

However, when that criticism crosses the line from respectful disagreement to outright lies and slander, we are obligated to respond. When those gross mischaracterizations come from editorial boards who have a solemn responsibility to deliver news and opinion with integrity, the need to respond is much greater.

A recent editorial in The York Dispatch made several outrageous claims pertaining to two bills we have introduced: the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act and the Empowering Families in Education Act.

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Some of these false assertions include claiming elected officials are “railing against trans student athletes”; “preoccupied with stirring anti-queer sentiment”; and “a confederacy of dunces … who'd happily live in a world without gay people.”

The editorial board says, “it’s difficult to interpret any of their actions any other way.”

We welcome the opportunity to explain why they are completely, unequivocally wrong — and why their false rhetoric is dangerous.

First, at no time have any of us maligned members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We believe everyone is worthy of dignity and respect, no matter who they chose to love and how they choose to identify.

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You’ll notice the editorial made only vague accusations without citing examples. There’s a reason for that: examples of actual bigotry from us do not exist anywhere except the imagination of The York Dispatch editorial board.

Second, our bills do not endanger LGBTQIA+ youth in any way, and they do nothing to diminish the health, safety, educational opportunities and mental and emotional health of any student. Suggestions to the contrary have absolutely no basis in science, reality or common sense.

Finally, the editorial board’s suggestion that our bills are emboldening groups of despicable people who are actively seeking to harm members of the LGBTQIA+ community is not only a false narrative unsupported by the facts, but it cheapens the very real danger these criminals pose to vulnerable populations.

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With misinformation like this, it’s no wonder the owners of USA Today are ordering editorial pages to be scaled back due to the number of readers they alienate.

Here are the facts.

Title IX was created exactly 50 years ago to provide equal athletic opportunities for women. The legislation we support is simple: school athletic teams specifically designated for females should not be open to biological males. This does not prohibit other athletic opportunities. It simply preserves the intent of Title IX.

This is an opinion shared by 55% of Americans in a recent Washington Post-commissioned poll, including transgender woman and Olympic Champion Caitlyn Jenner, who summed it best when she said, “I don’t think biological men should play in women’s sports. It’s just not fair.”

This view was further supported by swimming’s world governing body, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), which voted this past weekend to restrict the participation of transgender athletes if they transitioned after puberty. This wasn’t based on bigotry; the decision was made because science demonstrates the competitive advantage it provides to athletes.

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In the classroom, we are seeing school districts — not parents — teaching kindergarten children about gender identity and sexual preference. We do not believe classroom instruction on these sensitive topics should be occurring at such a young age, and certainly not without the knowledge or consent of the parents. And the American public agrees.

A recent poll showed that Americans, regardless of political party, oppose teaching elementary school students about gender identity or sexual orientation at a rate of 2 to 1 versus those who support such lessons.

Sadly, this biased editorial is another example of irresponsible media creating a false narrative around these proposals for one of two reasons: they do not agree with them politically, or they do not care to take the time to read the bills and understand them.

In the future, we encourage the editorial board to reach out to us to discuss these proposals before they grossly mislead their readers, defame well-meaning elected officials and disparage the majority of Americans who support our legislative efforts.

Their readers deserve nothing less.