U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis is co-sponsoring a resolution urging federal agencies to recognize only males and females in what is described as an effort to “reaffirm legal protections” for women.
“Male and female individuals possess unique and immutable biological differences that manifest prior to birth and increase with age and puberty,” the resolution said. “(Recent) misguided court rulings relating to the definition of ‘sex’ have led to the endangerment of spaces and resources dedicated to women.”
The Women’s Bill of Rights, also known as Senate Resolution 644, said it is important to clearly define men and women in certain situations.
“There are important reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons, domestic violence shelters, restrooms, and with respect to other areas, particularly where biology, safety and privacy are implicated,” it said.
The resolution called for a person’s sex to be determined by his or her biological sex at birth.
The Woman’s Bill of Rights surfaced less than a week after Lummis’ remarks on the topic of sex at the University of Wyoming graduation ceremony resulted in her being booed by some in the crowd.
“Even fundamental scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days,” she said.
Lummis issued an apology after the event and said she acknowledged “there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized.”
However, the resolution mentions only the sexes of male and female.
A Lummis spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the senator’s intent with the resolution or reason for co-sponsoring it.
Senate resolutions are not binding law. They are used to express a collective sentiment from the Senate on a particular topic, although their passage can lead to the creation of Senate committees to examine the issue raised.
Lummis’ co-sponsorship of the resolution was criticized by Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group.
“It just makes me feel sad,” Burlingame said. “I have a sense for who Sen. Lummis is. She is someone who cares about making people feel welcome and this resolution does not do that.”
Transgender advocates argue that an individual’s biological sex at birth does not represent what sex or gender they might choose to identify with later in life.
Burlingame said it is important to recognize sex and gender as two different things, the former being biological and the latter a social construct.
“Just because they have been conflated in the past doesn’t make them so,” she said.
Burlingame also said she is disappointed the resolution also does not recognize intersex people, individuals born with both male and female reproductive organs and an ambigious sexual identity.
The resolution does not go into how the designations of male and female, man and woman or boy and girl should be enforced.
The issue of transgender students competing in women’s sports has surfaced in Wyoming in recent years, with legislation drafted this year to ban people born as males from competing on women’s sports team. The bill was approved by the Senate but the House did not consider it.
The Transgender Law Center gives Wyoming a “low” ranking for its LGBTQ-related laws, while Colorado to the south was given a rating of “high.”
In Feburary, Alabama lawmakers passed legislation that would bar transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their current gender identity and on Thursday, Oklahoma adopted similar legislation requiring students at public schools to use restrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates.
But in Tennessee earlier this week, a federal judge struck down a law that required businesses to alert patrons if they allow transgender use of their bathrooms.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, is the lead sponsor on the resolution. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is a co-sponsor with Lummis. The resolution was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.