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Democratic Rep. Val Demings supported the Equality Act, which would have allowed students nationwide to compete on sports teams based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. The majority of states allow transgender athletes to play college and high school sports.
The Equality Act did not address school curriculum, legal experts said.
In the Florida U.S. Senate race, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio used transgender and gender identity references to cast Democratic Rep. Val Demings as "radical" and in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"One hundred percent. That’s how often radical Val Demings votes with Nancy Pelosi," the narrator says in a Rubio TV ad.
The narrator makes claims about Demings’ voting record as photos of Demings and Pelosi appear against a black backdrop. Behind the photos, thunder crackles and a roof seems to cave in, collapsing in a cascade of debris.
"Demings even voted to allow transgender youth sports and teaching radical gender identity without parental consent," the narrator said.
Demings voted for legislation that supported transgender athletes, but, according to legal experts, it did not address curriculum.
Asked for proof to support the claim, Rubio’s campaign cited the Equality Act, federal legislation Demings backed and the House passed in 2021 and 2019. The Senate did not vote on either version.
The Equality Act sought to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The 1964 law protects against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The bill would have applied to employment, education, housing, credit, jury service and programs receiving federal funding and public accommodations (such as retail stores).
Although the majority of states already allow transgender athletes to play in high school and college sports, the bill would have enshrined that right federally.
Despite the ad’s claim that Demings voted to teach "radical gender identity without parental consent," the bill did not address school curriculum, legal experts said.
Demings’ vote would have allowed transgender student-athletes to compete
The Equality Act did not explicitly address sports, but by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, it would have allowed transgender student-athletes in college and high school to compete on teams based on their gender identity rather than their sex asssigned at birth.
"It would bring the Civil Rights Act into explicit agreement with the Department of Education’s understanding of Title IX to allow transgender students to play sports," said Pennsylvania State University law professor Dara Purvis.
Title IX is a federal law intended to protect people from sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities.
If the Equality Act became law, students could challenge state laws that ban or restrict transgender participation in sports, said University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave.
Nineteen states have laws banning or restricting transgender participation in sports, The Associated Press reported in June.
The Equality Act did not specify anything about teaching gender identity.
Rubio’s campaign pointed PolitiFact to an article by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that speculated that the Equality Act "could pave the way" for courts to "require sexual orientation and gender-identity curricula the same way they required Black history curricula."
University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock and Alexis Rangel, policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the Equalilty Act did not address curriculum.
The Equality Act deals with "discrimination and harassment in education, not the content of school curricula," said David Farmer, spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also, "radical gender identity" is a subjective talking point, he said.
Rubio said Demings "voted to allow transgender youth sports and teaching radical gender identity without parental consent."
Demings supported the Equality Act, which would have allowed students nationwide to compete on sports teams based on their gender identity rather than their sex asssigned at birth. The majority of states allow transgender athletes to play college and high school sports.
The Equality Act did not address school curriculum.
We rate Rubio’s statement Half True.
RELATED: Marco Rubio’s PolitiFact file
RELATED: Val Demings’ PolitiFact file
YouTube, Marco Rubio post of "Marco Rubio Ad: 100%," Sept. 14, 2022
Email, Marco Rubio campaign spokesperson Elizabeth Gregory, Sept. 27, 2022
Email, Val Demings campaign spokesperson Anna Breedlove, Sept. 28, 2022
Email, Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott distinguished professor of law, University of Virginia Law School, Sept. 30, 2022
Interview, University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave, Oct. 3, 2022
Email, David Farmer, spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality, Oct. 3, 2022
Washington Blade, "Trans kids in sports may be sticking point in Equality Act talks," April 21, 2021
NBC-2.com, "NBC2 fact checks Marco Rubio political ad against Val Demings," Sept. 25, 2022
Florida Politics, "Marco Rubio amps up air war against ‘Pelosi Puppet’ Val Demings," Sept. 14, 2022
Congress.gov, "H.R.5 - Equality Act," introduced March 13, 2019
Congress.gov, "H.R.5 - Equality Act," introduced Feb. 18, 2021
Clerk of the House of Representatives, "Roll Call 217 Bill Number: H. R. 5," May 17, 2019
Twitter, Republican Governors Association tweet, Sept. 27, 2022
PolitiFact, "House passage of Equality Act advances Biden campaign promise," March 12, 2021
PolitiFact, "What the Equality Act debate gets wrong about gender, sex," March 4, 2021
PolitiFact, "Ad watch: Conservative PAC claims Gary Peters would 'destroy girls’ sports,’" Sept. 15, 2020
PolitiFact, "Baldwin hits target with claim about states and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people," March 28, 2019
New York Times, "House Passes Sweeping Gay and Transgender Equality Legislation," Feb. 25, 2021
Heritage Foundation, "The Equality Act," accessed Sept. 28, 2022
Heritage Foundation, "11 Myths About H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2021," Feb. 24, 2021
Email, Pennsylvania State University law professor Dara Purvis, Oct. 3, 2022
NPR, "House Passes The Equality Act: Here's What It Would Do," Feb. 24, 2021
NPR, "Behind The Civil Rights Act," July 2, 2014 note
Center for American Progress, "What You Need To Know About the Equality Act," March 15, 2021
ABC News, "Equality Act that would bar LGBTQ, gender identity discrimination faces uphill battle in Senate," March 17, 2021
Associated Press, "Title IX’s next battle: The rights of transgender athletes," June 19, 2022
Rumble, Rand Paul "Fairness" ad, Sept. 28, 2022
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