(ATLANTA, GA) August 24, 2016. Maya Dillard Smith is the former Chief Executive of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia who found herself caught in the crossfire of the transgender bathroom debate a few months ago as the issue took center stage in national headlines over North Carolina’s HB2 “transgender bathroom bill.”
Today, in an op-ed entitled Federal Court’s Denial of Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Directive a Win for Everyone Dillard Smith writes, “The Federal Court’s just gave the green light for a broader conversation.” She adds, “The question now is will it be civil?”
Dillard Smith has been demanding a broader conversation of all the rights being implicated under the new legal term “gender identity.” Her goal as a civil rights advocate and constitutional scholar is to delicately balance competing rights to ensure that any infringements are narrowly tailored, that they do not create a hierarchy of rights, and that lawmaking bodies are mindful to mitigate potential unintended consequences.
The federal courts agree with Dillard Smith.
“Maintaining bathroom use as we know it, while the public gets its opportunity to support, oppose, alter and modify the administration’s proposed rule, is the legally correct thing to do,” she opines. “The federal decision is a win for American democracy. It says no one is above the law – not Republicans or Democrats or their deep pocketed lobbyist.”
Above the law? Dillard Smith is referring to the practice of circumventing legally required public debate rules called “notice and comment.” A practice the judge condemned the Obama Administration of doing and the same tactic North Carolina’s Republican dominated legislature were accused of doing when it passed HB2 in one-day without any public input.
Dillard Smith's transition from the ACLU of Georgia arose as she sought to address the balance between transgender access to bathrooms and locker rooms and legitimate public safety concerns to protect women and girls. It happened the same day hundreds of parents packed a North Georgia school district in response to the Obama Administration’s threat to pull education funding if students weren't given the choice of whether to use the girls or boys bathroom.
Dillard Smith’s transition was made even more controversial because she has had the personal encounter of being in a public women’s restroom with her elementary school age daughters when three transgender young adults –all over six feet tall and with deep voices – clad in women’s clothing entered.
“My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer,” Dillard Smith has said previously. “Despite additional learning I still have to do, I believe there are solutions that can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent.”
Branded “an anti-transgender pundit” by ThinkProgress, nothing is further from the truth. Dillard Smith is a Democratic party insider who comes from a long line of progressives. She attended UC Berkeley and worked with Rep. Barbara Lee while in college. She first met Hillary Clinton at the age of 25.
“I was in the very first class of Emerge America in 2002 when it was a dream of San Francisco progressive women,” she recalls. “Hillary Clinton was major sponsor who traveled to California in 2003 to meet with us.”
Emerge America is a national leadership pipeline of Democratic women trained to run and win elected office and its network is a driving force rallying for the election of our nation’s first female president.
Dillard Smith has been courageously asking the questions everybody wants to ask but few people are comfortable doing so.
“I always understood the rights of women and girls to be progressive values, so its been entertaining to be attacked by my friends on the left by simply asking what are the implications on laws the protect the rights of women and girls and other fundamental rights. There has been an express attempt by the LGBT lobby to De-platform the voices of others in the debate about gender identity especially progressive women by simply dismissing legitimate privacy and safety concerns as ‘hate’ or ‘bigotry’.” Dillard Smith laments.
“This federal court ruling now opens the door to have a robust national debate on the issue,” she says
Ms. Dillard Smith created a wildly successful digital community (www.facebook.com/WeAreFindingMiddleGround) that is a safe space for conversations addressing the most controversial civil rights issues of our time. The site launched and the conversation was kick started with the first topic: “Transgender Bathrooms, The Rights of Those Born Female (formerly Women's Rights), "Gender Identity" & The Law - Can We Broaden The Conversation?: The Case for Civil Discourse.”
With a near cult-like following including large segments of the nation eager to have a broader conversation, Dillard Smith has been tackling the complex issues on the subject of “gender identity” as a national commentator and online moderator.
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Maya Dillard Smith is a civil and human rights activist, legal scholar, political strategist, and news commentator. She is the Founder of FindingMiddleGround.org. Equipped with a degree from the UC Berkeley as a teen mom, a Master’s from Harvard by age 23, and a law degree from the UC Hastings while raising three daughters, Ms. Dillard Smith is a nationally recognized voice on controversial issues with a demonstrated track record of working with acrimonious stakeholders across the political spectrum to problem solve principled- solutions for all.