Democratic Allegheny County Councilor makes insensitive remark about motion denouncing anti-trans sports bills before voting against it | Pittsburgh City Paper

Democratic Allegheny County Councilor makes insensitive remark about motion denouncing anti-trans sports bills before voting against it

In an April 13 Allegheny County Council meeting, Councilor Bob Macey (D-West Mifflin) made an insensitive remark when debating a motion to denounce state and federal legislators prohibiting transgender athletes from participating in youth and collegiate sports.

In response to a nonbinding motion meant to signify that council is opposed to attempts by other governments to limit transgender athletes in sports, Macey said before the vote: “You know this is a little bit cheek-in-tongue … or tongue-in-cheek, I mean, thank you very much — so if this motion passes, that means that Kris Jenner should be able to compete against women. That’s it.”

While Kris Jenner is a cisgender woman, Macey likely was referring to Caitlyn Jenner, an Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete who came out as a trans woman in 2015. Macey also mischaracterized the motion by mentioning a professional athlete, whereas the motion was focused on bills hoping to regulate youth and collegiate athletics.

The motion, sponsored by Councilor Olivia Bennett (D-North Side) and Councilor at-large Bethany Hallam (D-North Side), was written in response to legislation introduced in more than two dozen states to limit transgender athletes from participating in youth and collegiate sports, along with the federal bill, H.R. 8932, “Protect Women’s Sports Act.”

“I think this motion is pretty self-explanatory,” Hallam said while introducing the motion during the April 13 meeting. “I think it is very important that we as a council take a stand against all of the discrimination attempts that are happening at state and federal governments, states all throughout the country. And [we should] just stand in solidarity with our transgender neighbors and transgender students and make sure that they are protected and able to participate in sports programming without discrimination.”

Allegheny County has a nondiscrimination ordinance on the books that provides civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals. The county expanded those protections last year, to protect those seeking health care, in response to former President Donald Trump rolling back a rule protecting trans people seeking health care.

Despite unanimous support for those protections, the council was split on this motion, which cites negative effects on mental health due to limiting access to sports as a reason to denounce state and federal limitations on trans youths. The motion also notes that “according to a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior State and Local Survey … 44 percent of transgender youth reported considering committing suicide compared to 19 percent of cisgender students.”

Additionally, Dr. Eric Vilain, a pediatrician and geneticist who studies sex differences in athletes, told NPR last month that there are no good faith reasons to limit trans women's participation in sports, especially in high school.

Macey went on to vote against the motion. In total, the motion received seven “yes” votes, six “no” votes, and two abstentions. Because it did not receive the required eight “yes” votes from the 15 councilors, the motion failed.

Along with Macey, a Democrat, three additional Democrats voted against the motion: Nick Futeles (D-Oakmont), Paul Zavarella (D-Plum), and Robert Palmosina (D-Banksville). Two Republican councilors voted against the motion: San DeMarco (R-North Fayette) and Cindy Kirk (R-Wexford). Council President Patrick Catena (D-Carnegie) and Tom Baker (R-Ross) abstained, both saying that they did not know enough to vote.

“I’m so disappointed in my colleagues — both the ones who voted no on this, and also the ones who abstained without reason,” Hallam says. “Trans rights are human rights, and anyone who feels that our trans neighbors do not deserve love and protection should not be in elected office.”

Macey is currently facing a challenger in the Democratic primary election in the form of Steven Singer, a public school teacher who teaches in the Steel Valley School District. Singer took issue with Macey's comments.

"I said from the beginning of this campaign that it's time for someone to fight for every resident of this county," said Singer. "Transgender people have been discriminated against long enough."