ATLANTA — The head of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has resigned from her position over her disagreement on transgender restroom use following an experience where her own young daughters became frightened in encountering three large men in the women’s restroom.
Maya Dillard Smith says that she realized that her values were different from those of the ACLU, which has backed the Obama administration’s controversial transgender restroom mandate for schools and has expressed opposition against North Carolina’s restroom law.
“It became very evident to me that the ACLU and myself were simply principally and philosophically unaligned on a number of issues,” she told Fox’s Megyn Kelly this week. “And I found myself and at the crux of the transgender rights and transgender restroom controversy.”
Dillard Smith, formerly of California, has been recruited to fill the executive director position after her predecessor Debbie Seagraves retired last year. She explained that before being offered the job, an incident occurred that largely influenced her thinking on transgender restroom issues. Smith had escorted her elementary school-aged daughters to the restroom at a public facility, and minutes later, three men dressed as women also entered.
“After we were in, entered three trangendered young adults—all over six feet, all with really deep voices, all obviously men—and my children were visibly frightened,” she said. “I was very uncomfortable, and it engendered a lot of questions from my daughters, which I was unprepared to answer.”
After accepting a job at the ACLU, Dillard Smith soon found herself in the midst of a national argument over transgender restroom use. Considering her own experience, she began asking the organization questions about how their push for transgender rights balanced with the rights of women and girls, but found no room for dissenting opinions.
“I certainly felt like there is not an opportunity to have robust discourse on the competing civil rights that are implicated—not only in the context of bathrooms and the advancement of transgender rights, but even in the context of religious refusal bills, which you’ve seen across the country,” she outlined.
Dillard Smith, a Democrat, said that she found herself agreeing more with states such as North Carolina and Georgia than the ACLU, and knew she could not continue if the ACLU would not allow room for other opinions.
“There are real concerns about the safety of women and girls in regards to this bathroom debate,” Dillard Smith told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “It seems to me that instead of stifling the dialogue, we [should] want to encourage a robust debate to come up with an effective solution.”
She now contends that in protecting some rights but not all, the ACLU is “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 has consequently launched an online effort called “Finding Middle Ground” to discuss how to find a balance in the issue of transgender accommodations.
“Despite additional learning I still have to do, I believe there are solutions that 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.