On this episode of At The Bar, Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ 8th District) joins to discuss the need for a Women’s Bill of Rights. Rep. Lesko introduced House Resolution 1136: establishing a Women’s Bill of Rights to reaffirm legal protections afforded to women under Federal law. Learn more here.

Hosted by Inez Stepman of Independent Women’s Forum and Jennifer Braceras of Independent Women’s Law Center, At The Bar is a virtual happy hour conversation about issues at the intersection of law, politics, and culture.


TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Hello everyone, and welcome to At The Bar, where we discuss issues at the intersection of law, politics and culture. I’m Jennifer Braceras with Independent Women’s Law Center.

Inez Stepman:

And I’m Inez Stepman, with Independent Women’s Forum, and today we are really pleased to be able to talk to Representative Debbie Lesko. Since 2018, Representative Lesko has represented Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, and in the 116th Congress, she served on the House Judiciary, House Rules, and House Homeland Security Committees; and also she served as the Co-Chair for the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, which I think is not limited to what the Left would call “women’s issues,” which I think is something that IW really shares with you, Congresswoman, that we think that actually, there’s a lot of issues that impact women and not just a couple that the Left like to sort of flagellate on.

But so, she has also in the 117th Congress, she was appointed to serve as Assistant Whip. She also serves as a Co-Chair of the Women’s STEM Caucus, Women in STEM Caucus, and prior to entering Congress, Representative Lesko represented, served for nine years in the Arizona Legislature, six years in the House, and three years in the State Senate in that important and wonderful State of Arizona. Thank you so much, Congresswoman, for joining us At The Bar.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Thank you for having me. This is exciting, and I liked your music intro. Pumped me up a little bit.

Inez Stepman:

So, you recently introduced a bicameral resolution, establishing a Women’s Bill of Rights to reaffirm legal protections afforded to women under federal law, which was based on model legislation drafted by Independent Women’s Law Center, hat tip to Jennifer over there, and Independent Women’s Voice. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what that resolution is, what it does, and why you think that it was actually necessary?

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Yeah. Don’t we live in sad times that we actually have to introduce a legislation to define what a woman is, but that’s what it’s come to. I mean, some of these people on the radical Left can’t even define what a woman is. When the Supreme Court Justice nominee was asked, “Can you define what a woman is?” She’s like, “No, I’m not a biologist.” Give me a break. Everybody knows what a woman is. Okay? It’s like, we, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, and the Left, and the Democrats always say, “Follow the science.” Well, follow the science, everyone. A woman is a woman and a man is a man, and there is a difference, and so I felt it very important during these crazy times when people can’t even define what a woman and what a man is, is to put it in law, federal law, so that there’s no question what a woman is and what a man is, and so we just spell it out.

Now, if people want to identify as something else, that’s up to them, right? We’re not discriminating against anybody. We’re just saying, in federal and state law, this is the definition of woman, and this is the definition of man. It’s important in every facet of our life. I mean, look at the sports now, right? There’s no more women’s sports. There’s no more girls’ sports. It’s either co-ed or men, which is really unfair to all of the women out there, and that’s why this legislation is important, and that’s why I sponsored it.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

I think you make an important point that it’s a free country, as my kids like to say, and in this country, you could identify as whatever you want. Nobody’s stopping you. But identity is a very different concept than biological sex. The vast majority of Americans in this country understand that a woman is an adult human female. A girl is a human female who has not yet reached adulthood. That’s, these are obvious concepts, but the gender ideologues want to redefine those terms and make them subjective. You mentioned sports. That’s certainly one of the most obvious negative consequences of this sort of subjective redefining of basic scientific terms. But what are some of the other negative effects that this redefinition of language can have on our policies and on life?

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Well, it affects every aspect of our life, and I remember last year, or maybe the year before when the Violence Against Women Act and the Equality Act were being passed. And I voted against both of those because there are things in it that confuse the gender and have the government mandate that men and boys be allowed in women’s spaces. And let’s talk about our kids in schools. I do not want the government mandating that schools have to allow boys and men into the girls’ bathroom or girls’ locker room. That is one example, and schools, if the government forces them to do this, as they are trying to do, and the Equality Act tries to have them do, then everything is up for games. I mean, everything is undefined. How is this school, like if a boy, all of a sudden, one day says, “I identify as a woman,” the school would have to be allowed to have the boy who still looks like a boy who still has the boy body parts into a woman’s locker room, shower.

I’m sorry. I want to protect girls and women, and that’s why we need to protect ‘girl’ and ‘women.’ We need to, that’s what the bill is all about. Now, let me give you another example. This is already happening, not only in our schools, but in the prisons, where they are forcing, I guess the prisons to accept men into women spaces for prisons because they identify as a woman. Now, this is not somebody that has done a sex change or has gone to counseling, and they’re transitioning or anything like that. They just simply identify. There’s no time limit on it that they have to have identified for a year or two. They can say, “I am a woman today,” and then go into a woman’s only prison and rape a woman. And guess what? That’s happened. That’s why this is important. This is insanity, that we are just now saying that women are the same exactly as men.

They are not. They’re different. They’re scientifically, biologically different, and we have to define that in federal law, because the radical Left and the Democrats are trying to confuse it all.

Inez Stepman:

So, as I’m sure you know, the Biden administration is now moving to, is potentially going to be releasing some regulations that redefine for federal civil rights law, for Title IX, redefine sex to include gender identity. So, could you explain why something like this in Congress or at the state level, how defining “woman” in federal law would interact with or override some of the Biden changes, because those changes do all the things you just listed, Congresswoman. They, at least within the ones that are within the sphere of education systems, right? So, it forces public schools to allow boys who identify as girls just to participate on women’s sports teams, allows them a right into women’s locker rooms, all of those things that you just listed with regard to schools. That’s what the Biden administration’s going to attempt to do through regulatory moves, through the administrative state.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Yeah. The Biden administration, the Democrats just believe in this stuff, and it’s radical, absolutely radical that we would subject our teenage daughters and granddaughters to have boys, teenage boys in women locker rooms and showers. That is awful. I, just think of the risks that are there. I don’t know what’s going to happen if everybody’s going to just start pulling their kids out of public schools, I think, because that is a risk to a girl. When we heard from what happened in Virginia, where this man’s daughter was sexually molested by a guy identifying as a woman. We cannot let this happen. We have to protect our daughters, our granddaughters.

The Left is eliminating women’s rights, women’s rights that we have fought for for years, they’re eliminating them. You know the world is upside down when, in judiciary committee, I think it was maybe last year or the year before, the Republican witness was a Democrat, a feminist lesbian who said, “Stop taking away women’s spaces. Stop taking away women’s spaces,” because these Leftists booted her out. She was on a board, an LGBT board, and they booted her off because she had the audacity of saying, “Wait a second. Guys shouldn’t be allowed in women’s spaces. We fought too long for our rights.” And she was booted off of the board because she wasn’t radical enough.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Yeah. You know, it’s interesting because the Left likes to describe it as simply wanting to protect trans kids, and the reality is, that there was no indication that schools weren’t already doing that in terms of providing single-stall bathrooms for people who wanted privacy, whether it was because they were trans or for some other reason. Schools were trying to accommodate kids who were different or kids who had privacy issues that needed that private space, but they were doing it without infringing on the rights of women. That wasn’t good enough for the Left, right? Accommodating kids who were different wasn’t good enough.

They needed to make sure that we accept trans women as women, and therefore they get to come into female spaces. That’s just not … you talk about trying to find compromises, and you talk about conservatism, small C, like letting local communities figure out solutions, ways to accommodate people. That’s the way things should be done, not by forcing things on other people, and by giving one set of people rights by taking them away from another group of people. It seems to not actually make any sense to me at all.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Well, it doesn’t make sense to me at all either, and I’m trying to understand it. I met with a constituent, probably for two hours, who was identified as a woman. It was a male who identified as a woman and an adult. We actually agreed on a lot of things in that, it’s not…. I told her that what…. It can be abused, right? So, somebody, let’s say you’re a teenage boy. All right. I mean, it, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to think that boy, a teenage boy might abuse this whole thing. Even if they aren’t transgender, they might say, “Hey, I identify as a woman,” so they can get into the teenage girls’ locker room and showers. I mean, this is, there’s no time limit. They don’t even have to go to a doctor and say, “Okay, they have transitioned over to a different sex, and therefore, I deem them to be transgender or something.”

They can switch every minute if they want to, and that’s just…. The person I met with agreed with me. There should be some kind of guidelines and certainly not take away the rights of women. I mean, we don’t want to discriminate against anybody. Nobody does, but you should not put the rights of transgenders over the rights of women. That’s wrong.

Inez Stepman:

I mean, I guess the argument would be, right, that these are all forms that in fact, if you acknowledge that there’s any biological differences at all between the sexes, that itself is a form of discrimination. I guess I’m not wholly insensible or wholly like sort of, like, I don’t think that argument is wholly wrong because it is a form of discrimination. We use that word a lot, especially here on At The Bar. Under the law, there are all kinds of discriminations that are allowed every single day. I mean, you can hire someone by discriminating against people who are worse at math, for example, for the engineering position, right?

There are only certain instances in which we, as a society, have said, okay, discrimination, this kind of discrimination is not only not appropriate, because it’s not based on some underlying reality, but it is actually, we’re going to go ahead and bar it by law. Of course, the most famous example is race because we’ve determined that there is no difference between the races that is applicable or relevant, for example, to who you hire to be a chemist or something like that. Right? The problem here is sex as a biological criterion is completely relevant to whether or not, for example, you are admitted to the women’s locker room, whether or not you’re admitted to a jail or a prison, on the basis of sex, whether we house you with women or men, like these are cases where an underlying biological sex is actually incredibly relevant.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

The thing is, is that I do believe most Democrats know what a woman and a man is, but they’re afraid to say it or something. I don’t know. I don’t understand it because, for instance, let’s say on pro-life versus pro-abortion issues, now that the draft decision on Roe versus Wade has come out, all of these groups are saying you’re taking away women’s choice. Right?

Well, they seem to know what a woman is when it comes to that, but they don’t seem to know what a woman is in other instances, and so it’s very hypocritical that they can’t even define what a woman is. And when the Democrat witness, when in front of Congress and was asked, “Can a man have an abortion?” and the Democrat witness said, “Yes, a man can have an abortion.” And everybody at the face of it just thinks that’s nuts. Okay. It’s just, I don’t know how else to say it. It’s insanity, what is going on in our country. It’s kind of like saying that the sky is not blue. That they’re all trying to convince us that the sky is red or orange or whatever color, when we all can see it with our eyes.

Every once in a while, the Democrats slip up, like on this pro-abortion issue. They go, “You can’t take away a woman’s right to choose.” Oh, I thought you forgot what a woman was. They know what a woman is, but apparently they won’t fess up to it. It’s very confusing. It’s crazy. We just can’t let it happen, and that’s why I introduced this legislation, so at least in law, in federal and state law, we define what a woman is. We define what a man is, so that men aren’t going in women’s places.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

What kind of response have you had to the resolution? I know you had a number of co-sponsors. What have you heard from your colleagues across the aisle or within the Republican Party about this resolution?

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Well, the people that agree with us reach out and say, “That’s great.” Most people say, “I can’t believe you even had to do legislation to define what a woman is.” We’ve come to the, they all think that the world has gone crazy, that we have to have legislation to define what a woman is, when everybody knows what a woman is. Right? Everybody knows what a woman is. Everybody knows what a man is. And yet, for some reason, the Left has, says they don’t know what it is, that you can identify as this or that or whatever. They don’t seem to know the definition anymore. So, most people are just like, “Wow, that’s great. But it’s crazy that we live in a world that you even have to do that.”

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Well, I think the reason that you do have to do it is because we have a government where there are so many unelected bureaucrats, and unelected judges that have the power to reinterpret words. So, when you Members of Congress write laws, there’s an assumption that the words mean what they say they mean. Then they get, the laws get into the hands of these unelected judges or bureaucrats, and they decide, as you said, that actually blue means green, right? So, it seems that not only in the realm of sex, but in lots of areas, Congress needs to now assert itself strongly, and define very, very clearly what even basic words mean.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Yeah. I think you’re right. I think you’re definitely right on that. But you asked me how people are reacting. Of course, people from the Left, I think it’s terrible, they think I’m discriminating. They think I’m from the stone age or something. But I would say that the vast majority of people know the difference between a man and a woman, and they are on my side, on this issue. Like, let’s define what a man and a woman is.

Inez Stepman:

What has the response been from other, because you mentioned so many people are, are just afraid to speak some of these really basic truths, right? What has the response been from even folks on your own side? Have they been willing to cosponsor this legislation with you or, or just other, anything else? Are they supportive of the concept of actually defining woman and man in federal law? Or have you found that even on your side of the aisle, there are folks that are sort of reluctant to take this issue on?

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Oh, there’s definitely people on the Republican side of the aisle that are reluctant to take it on. And I’m usually, I’m a Congresswoman, whether it was in the state legislature or now in Congress, is I’m willing to take these issues on and be vocal about it because it’s important. So far, it has been, it has treated me well. When I was back in the state legislature, I would take on controversial issues similar to this, and I was vilified. I mean, I was totally vilified. I had people calling my office, calling my home from all over the nation. On one piece of legislation, I was on national media. They were bashing me, and it was, at the time, it was horrifying to me.

I was just like, it was really depressing, but I knew I was on the right side, and I didn’t know politically how that would fall out. I just knew I was doing the right thing, and it’s worked, right? So, now I’m in Congress. So, obviously it’s worked. People realize that I stand up for what I believe in, and what the majority of my constituents and America believes in, because somebody has to do it. I don’t care if I’m vilified. I don’t care what names they call me because it’s the right thing to do.

Jennifer C. Braceras:

It sure is, and we thank you for your leadership on this issue. I know that in the current Congress, it probably has very little hope of passing, but what do you hear from your friends and colleagues on the state level? Do you think this is something that they might be interested in introducing in the Arizona legislature or other state legislatures across the country?

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Yeah. If it’s a Republican majority legislature and a Republican governor, I think they would pass it. If it’s a, quite frankly, if it’s a Democrat majority legislature and a Democrat governor, they’re probably not going to pass it. I know that sounds very partisan, but it’s the way that it is now. It’s-

Jennifer C. Braceras:

Well, I think that’s certainly true at the federal level, but you’d be surprised. There are some Democrats in the state legislatures who have voted to support, preserve women’s sports against this type of encroachment by gender ideologues. So, one would think that old-school feminists would jump on board, at least at a state and local level, where they’re not sort of brow-beaten by Nancy Pelosi into submission.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Well, you can hope so, and I hope that’s happening. I just, where I see it, it’s not happening.

As you say, these agency staff people, or a administration like President Biden’s administration that clearly doesn’t, wants to confuse the difference between man and woman, that they don’t get confused. Let’s make it clear, and I think that once Republicans take back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, we can pass this bill and then we’ll see if enough, if the Senate goes back to Republicans, we’ll see if we get 60 votes over there to pass it. But I think it needs to be done, because there’s so much confusion going on right now that it’s important that we put in law the definition between a woman and a man and a girl and a boy.

Inez Stepman:

Congresswoman Lesko, thank you so much for joining us at At The Bar today and giving us your time to talk about this important issue. As you say, it’s sad that we even have to have this conversation, this until right about 30 seconds ago in the timeline of this country, right? This was something that we thought we could take for granted, but, but as we’ve all seen, unfortunately, we can’t take that for granted anymore. So, thank you for your leadership on this issue, and from your colleagues as well for actually standing up for the biological differences between the sexes, that as you have said so eloquently today, are so important. But this is the end of our At The Bar. I’m Inez Stepman, once again, and my colleague, Jennifer Braceras, at the Independent Women’s Law Center.

I just want to say one more thing before we sign off. We are actually on a related issue on the Title IX regulations that we were talking about with the Congresswoman, that these Biden administration Title IX regulations, that redefine woman and erase in fact, women from Title IX, we are having a rally for women’s sports to keep women’s sports actually female. That’s on June 23rd at 11 o’clock in the morning in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. So, if you are listening and that’s something that you’re interested in coming out and supporting, we want to make sure that women’s sports actually remain female. Seems again, like a really basic thing, we shouldn’t have to rally for, but alas, this is where we are. Just thank you again, Congresswoman, for coming on At The Bar, and thank you for your leadership on this issue.

Rep. Debbie Lesko:

Thank you for everything that you do.

Inez Stepman:

Thanks for our, to our listeners for tuning in for another episode of At The Bar, conversations at the intersection of law, culture, and politics. Thanks so much, and we’ll see you next time.