Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, a Republican, introduced an anti-trans bill on Tuesday that would severely limit transgender people’s access to public bathrooms. The measure somewhat mirrors North Carolina’s notorious HB2 by prohibiting transgender people from using government facilities, including school bathrooms, that align with their gender identity. But it has a twist: Under Marshall’s bill, a trans person who changes the gender on his or her birth certificate is still punished—because everyone must use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their “original birth certificate.” The measure also requires public school principals to notify a child’s parents within 24 hours if he or she asks to be “recognized or treated as the opposite sex,” to “use a name or pronouns inconsistent with the child’s sex,” or “to use a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.”
Marshall’s bill is deeply malicious and utterly futile. Even if it passes Virginia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto it. (Indeed, McAuliffe issued an executive order barring LGBTQ discrimination by state contractors shortly after Marshall introduced his measure.) How unhinged must Marshall be, you might wonder, to propose such a cruel and fatuous bill? Let’s assess the evidence.
In 1989, Marshall told the Boston Globe that he opposed birth control pills, calling them “abortion.” He also objected to long-acting contraception, telling the Globe: “It’s a real tribute to women’s intelligence. They feel so irresponsible they can’t do something once a day?” In the same interview, Marshall railed against abortion in the case of rape. “Your origins should not be held against you,” he explained, in reference to the victim’s fetus. “The woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman.”
Marshall has repeatedly attempted to forbid public colleges from making Plan B available. He vigorously endorsed an infamous measure requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy. In 2010, Marshall floated a curious theory about childhood disability:
The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. … In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.
Although he received criticism for these remarks, Marshall stood by them. “I don’t care,” he said. “I mean, if I say something in public, I say it in public.”
Naturally, Marshall’s primary obsession is with LGBTQ rights. After Congress repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Marshall proposed a measure to ban gay people from openly serving in the Virginia National Guard. “If I needed a blood transfusion and the guy next to me had committed sodomy 14 times in the last month, I’d be worried,” Marshall noted. “It’s a distraction when I’m on the battlefield and have to concentrate on the enemy 600 yards away and I’m worried about this guy who’s got eyes on me.”
That bill didn’t pass—but not all of Marshall’s antics have proved so fruitless. Marshall was the primary sponsor of Virginia’s successful constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. He also derailed the appointment of a judge solely because he was gay, asserting, “I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior.”
Marshall has declared his belief that same-sex intimacy “cuts your life by about 20 years.” He has speculated that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is gay because he often rules in favor of gay rights. “For all I know, Kennedy’s a homosexual,” he has said. “You can’t be doing some of these things without this kind of conclusion. … Clearly, some of the people who are making these decisions must be rationalizing their own bad behavior.” He also demanded that the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank remove a gay pride flag, writing that homosexuality “adds significantly to illness, increases health costs, promotes venereal diseases, and worsens the population imbalance relating to the number of workers supporting the beneficiaries of America’s Social Security and Medicare programs.” In 2015, Marshall proposed a wild bill that would’ve legalized anti-LGBTQ segregation in hotels, restaurants, businesses, schools, government agencies, and hospitals.
The argument over transgender people’s right to use public restrooms has become a national debate. One side of this debate can now claim Bob Marshall as a champion. Query what it means when a man like Marshall endorses your side of an argument.
Update, Jan. 6, 2016: This post has been updated to note that Marshall’s bill also requires principals to out gender non-conforming children to their parents.