A House Judiciary Committee hearing grew heated on Wednesday during an exchange between California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Gail Heriot, an anti-trans activist and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The topic was regulatory overreach, and Heriot submitted an outrageously transphobic testimony attacking the Department of Education’s recent trans-inclusive guidance. Lofgren read a portion of Heriot’s testimony aloud:
We are teaching people a terrible lesson. If I believe that I am a Russian princess, that doesn’t make me a Russian princess, even if my friends and acquaintances are willing to indulge my fantasy. Nor am I a great horned owl just because as I have been told I happen to share some personality traits with those feathered creatures.
“I’ve got to say, I found this rather offensive,” Lofgren then said of the passage:
It says to me that the witness really doesn’t know anything—and probably has never met a transgender child who is going through, in almost every case, a very difficult experience finding themselves. And I believe that the department’s guidance will help schools all over the United States in preventing the kind of violence and harassment that these transgender kids find too often. … I think it’s very regrettable that that comment was put into the record and I think it’s highly offensive.
Heriot then asked to respond. Lofgren said no, but Heriot proceeded anyway, telling Lofgren that “I think you’ll find that many people find it very offensive that the Department of Education thinks they can tell schools …”
But Lofgren shut her down.
“I think you’re a bigot, lady,” she said. “I think you’re an ignorant bigot.”
Republican Rep. Steve King ordered Lofgren to stop.
“I would just like to say,” Lofgren concluded, “that we allow witnesses to say offensive things—but I cannot allow that kind of bigotry to go into the record unchallenged.”
A side note on Heriot: The commissioner, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007, was a lifelong registered Republican prior to her service on the commission. However, federal law prohibits more than four members of the same political party to be on the commission at once—and at that time, the commission already had four Republican members. So Heriot re-registered as an independent, allowing her to be legally appointed.
During its years dominated by Bush-appointed conservatives, the commission scrapped plans to investigate race-based voting discrimination and push for greater racial integration in public schools. Instead, it investigated affirmative action programs and government efforts to help minority-owned businesses.
Heriot maintains that her decision to re-register as an independent shortly before her appointment was unrelated to her eagerness to join the commission. As the Boston Globe reported at the time:
Heriot was an alternate delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention and was a registered Republican until seven months before her appointment. In an interview, Heriot said her decision to reregister as an independent in August 2006, making her eligible to fill the vacancy, “had nothing to do with the commission.”
“I have disagreements with the Republican Party,” she said. Asked to name one, she declined.