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PolitiFact: Fact-checking Rubio’s claim on Demings’ stance on transgender athletes; ‘radical’ gender identity

NewsPolitiFact: Fact-checking Rubio’s claim on Demings’ stance on transgender athletes; ‘radical’ gender identity

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 spand

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. 

Half True

“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.

Demings supported federal Equality Act

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 Equspanlity 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 hspanve spanllowed transgender student-athletes in college and high school to compete on teams based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned 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 span federspanl lspanw 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.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a rally in support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Aug. 23, 2022, in Hialeah.

Nineteen states have laws banning or restricting transgender participation in sports, The Associated Press reported in June.

Equality Act’s connection to curriculum not proven

The Equality Act did not specify anything about teaching gender identity.

Rubio’s campaign pointed PolitiFact to spann spanrticle by the Heritspange Foundspantion, 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.

Our ruling

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 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.

We rate Rubio’s statement Half True.

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