Title IX language: Hope on the transgender bathroom issue

President Obama is famous for saying that words matter. Sometimes the smallest words matter the most. Especially when they carry the full weight of the Constitution on them.

Title IX’s implementation rule as passed by Congress and signed into law by President Gerald Ford reads: “A recipient may provide separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex, but such facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex.” 

This paragraph is very important and has been the subject of a lot of arguments with regard to requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they most closely identify. What we are reading is the law. These simple words seem unimposing but because of them every public restroom and locker room in the United States has been designed to meet the requirements laid out in this single sentence.

Within this sentence, some of the smallest words carry the most weight.

Let’s start by looking at the word “may”. May involves a choice. You can do something or not do something. In context here, a school can or may provide locker rooms and bathrooms or they can choose not to provide them. Standing alone the word may carries little or no weight.

The word may bulks up when followed closely by that little four-lettered word – “shall”. From a legal perspective, shall means must and if you don’t do whatever the law deems a must, then you are contrary to or breaking the law. The word shall carries the full weight of the legal system on the back of those four letters.

Again, in context, if you choose to provide bathrooms and locker rooms to one sex you shall or must provide comparable facilities to the other. If the women’s locker room is smaller or lacking amenities found in the men’s locker room then you are not in compliance with the intentions of Congress and are thus, breaking the law. This is how the law has been interpreted for over forty years.

Now let’s look at a few more short but heavy words. Within this sentence we also find the juxtaposition of the words “one” and “the other” with relation to the singular word “sex”. The law refers to “the one sex” and “the other sex”. There are only two choices within the law as it was written in 1972. If it referred to “the other sexes” (plural), as the transgender proponents would like us to believe, the law would have certainly captured any interpretation of what constitutes a sex, but it doesn’t.

You can’t sprinkle magic fairy dust on the law and have a singular noun magically turn plural. There is a procedure outlined by the Founders to facilitate such a correction. In order to change the word sex to sexes within the law requires not fairy dust, but an amendment to the original law. Since the law was passed by Congress and signed by the president, it requires a similar act of Congress to change it. This happens all the time. Unless of course, you’re President Obama or a Liberal judge. Then you make these changes with a pen and a phone or a gavel, thus usurping the will of the people and the Constitution itself.

So if even the smallest words matter as Obama would have us believe, then we must use the full weight of the Constitution to change them.

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