The director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has resigned over what she says is her philosophical disagreement with the group’s fight to overturn North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
Maya Dillard Smith resigned this week after issuing a statement that there was no room in the ACLU to “engage in dialogue” over the transgender debate.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Smith strongly criticized her former employer in a statement accompanying her departure. 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.”
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She also said she and her family have experienced the complexities surrounding the debate over bathroom access and sexual identity.
“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.”
Smith’s departing comments present a political embarrassment to the ACLU, even as it pushes for a federal court in Greensboro to throw out HB2. The group’s North Carolina office along with other HB2 critics filed the first lawsuit against the controversial law, claiming it discriminates against the LGBT community. ACLU lawyers have asked a judge to block the enforcement of HB2 until the courts rule on the matter.
The law, among other things, requires transgender individuals to use the public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
Contacted for a comment about Smith’s resignation and comments, North Carolina ACLU spokesman Mike Meno said his agency is “proud to be fighting in court and in the legislature to defeat North Carolina’s HB2.”
“Protecting transgender people from discrimination does not compromise the rights of anyone else. Eighteen states and more than 200 municipalities have protected the ability of transgender men and women to use the restroom that matches their gender identity,” Meno said.
The legal fight is a billowing one.
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Justice Department have ordered school systems around the country to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their sexual identities.
About a dozen states have filed suit against the president’s directive. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and other state leaders also have sued the federal government in defense of HB2.
The legal fight also has become a signature issue of the gubernatorial campaign, with McCrory accusing his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, of refusing to defend the privacy and safety of North Carolina students. Meanwhile, Cooper says McCrory continues to defend a law that has already cost the state millions in economic investment and hundreds of jobs.