Georgia ACLU Director Departs over Transgender Litigation (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — Maya Dillard Smith, Interim Director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says she has left the organization due to a disagreement she had over its participation in recent litigation over the use of public restrooms by transgender persons. And at least one transgender advocate is outraged by her comments.
The ACLU of North Carolina is a co-Plaintiff in a lawsuit, Carcano v. McCrory, challenging a controversial law passed by the North Carolina Legislature, HB 2.
HB 2 establishes “single sex” restrooms in North Carolina schools and public buildings, and defines “sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”
The ACLU, nationally, has made transgender issues an increasing priority.
Meanwhile, after the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) issued new guidance that transgendered persons have a Federal Constitutional right to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, the State of Georgia and ten other U.S. States have sued the USDOJ.
However, Dillard Smith, rather than agreeing with the ACLU on these matters, saw herself more on the side of the State of Georgia.
In a statement she accused the ACLU of being “a special interest organization that promotes not all, but certain progressive rights. In that way, it is a special interest organization not unlike the conservative right, which creates a hierarchy of rights based on who is funding the organization’s lobbying activities.”
Dillard Smith argues that transgender rights have “intersectionality with other competing rights, particularly the implications for women’s rights.”
“I have shared my personal experience of having taken my elementary school age daughters into a women’s restroom when shortly after three transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices entered,” she writes.
“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,” she said.
“Despite additional learning I still have to do, I believe there are solutions that provide can provide accommodations for transgender people and balance the need to ensure women and girls are safe from those who might have malicious intent,” she said.
“I understood it to be the ACLU’s goal to delicately balance competing rights to ensure that any infringements are narrowly tailored, that they do not create a hierarchy of rights, and that we are mindful of unintended consequences,” she said.
“Thus, I found myself principally and philosophically unaligned with the organization,” she wrote.
Dillard Smith has also launched a new website, Finding Middle Ground, that currently promotes a Youtube video in which a young girl on a swingset makes incendiary statements.
“Boys in the girl’s bathroom? I don’t know about that. There’s some boys who feel like they’re girls on the inside, and there’s some boys who are just perverts,” the girl says, laughing.
TRANSGENDER ADVOCATE APPALLED AT COMMENTS
“She did the right thing leaving the organization If she couldn’t defend our rights any better than that, she deserves to leave – she doesn’t need to be in that position,” Cheryl Courtney-Evans, of TILTT, told APN.
“The ACLU is supposed to stand up for everybody’s rights – if we’ve got a President and an Attorney General that recognizes our right to be, what to do we need with her then?” Courtney-Evans asked.
“She’s supposed to be heading an organization that’s supposed to stand up for everybody’s rights,” she said.
As for Dillard Smith’s stated concern regarding the safety of cisgender women and girls in public restrooms: “There is absolutely no documented incident of anyone of transgender experience attacking, molesting, or interacting in any way [that is inappropriate with]… any woman.”
“They refuse to respect our femaleness,” Courtney-Evans said.
“They’re still talking that crap about men dressing as women going into a lady’s room. The marriage issue has been resolved, now they need a new whipping post. So now, the transgender is the weakest link,” she said.
“I never went in a men’s room since I’ve been living my truth. What am I doing in a men’s room looking as luscious as I am, putting myself in danger?” she said.
“They don’t even know what they’re demanding,” she added, noting that some transgender men look more masculine than cisgender men. In other words, HB 2 would require cisgendered women to use the restroom along with transgender men, some of whom have full beards.
A STATE ACLU IN TRANSITION
There have been a number of staff changes at the ACLU in recent months and years.
Debbie Seagraves had served as Executive Director for many years, retired in 2015.
Dillard Smith was recruited from California to replace Seagraves, and was intended to help grow the Atlanta office. In March 2016, the organization posted hiring announcements for a new Director of Legal Advocacy and Director of Philanthropy.
Azadeh Shahshahani, who had served as National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director, for the ACLU of Georgia, also for several years, is now at Project South, serving as Legal and Advocacy Director.
In recent days, the ACLU has posted a job announcement to replace Dillard Smith:
UPDATE 1: Marsha Zeesman, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, declined to comment on the matter because it is personnel-related.