WASHINGTON -- Maybe Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was offended that President Barack Obama reminded the world over the weekend about the time Inhofe brought a snowball to work in order to deny climate science.
How else to explain the spitball Inhofe threw back at the president Tuesday morning? The irascible Republican returned to the chamber -- on a day devoted to combating homophobia and transphobia -- to rail against the Obama administration’s recent steps to guard the civil rights of transgender Americans. Inhofe characterized those efforts as liberal “social experiments.”
“This is all about a liberal agenda being crammed down the neck of Oklahoma and the rest of the country,” Inhofe said, minutes after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had praised Obama for the same policies.
The Department of Education issued guidance last week saying that schools should make sure children can access bathrooms based on their gender identity, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth.
Inhofe insisted that there was no legitimate role for the federal government in protecting such rights, and accused the Obama administration of rewriting law.
"It takes the unprecedented step of redefining sex to mean gender identity," Inhofe said, citing the opinion of his state’s attorney general. "The president's actions are unlawful."
“I fully support Oklahoma and other states that are vowing to fight this undemocratic edict from the politician that is no longer accountable to the voters,” Inhofe added. "Our nation's schools should not be ground zero for social experiments from [the] liberal agenda. This is exactly what's happening now."
Inhofe's remarks came just after Reid praised the White House and pointed out that Tuesday was the International Day Against Homophobia,Transphobia and Biphobia.
Reid, not knowing that Inhofe would be speaking after him, said the administration's position on transgender rights came down to a “simple question.”
"With whom do we stand?" Reid asked. "Do we stand with the bullies, or do we stand against the bullied? Do we stand up for the bullies, or against the bullies? Do we defend the persecutors, or do we come to the defense of the persecuted?"
Reid went on to argue that the Senate should be debating such questions, especially after North Carolina passed a law "that undermines the civil rights of transgender Americans."
The North Carolina measure makes it illegal for people to use a bathroom that does not correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth. Reid said the measure is obviously unconstitutional.
"Federal courts have made it clear that sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act covers transgender individuals," he said. "This goes back to 1989."
Indeed, the Department of Justice has sued North Carolina over the law, and numerous businesses and public figures are boycotting the state.
Reid also said that GOP leaders should join in condemning North Carolina, rather than defending it.
"Republican leaders are standing by the bigotry at tremendous cost to the state, and that's disappointing," he said.
Republicans, according to Inhofe, don’t see it that way. For them, stopping people from peeing in a bathroom that matches their gender identity is nothing less than blocking a pernicious liberal experiment and upholding religious values.
"It doesn't take an attorney general or U.S. senator to come to these conclusions," Inhofe said. "I thank God that basic morality is ringing out from the pews, not just in northeastern Oklahoma but throughout America."