Physical education teacher Byron Tanner Cross’ unwavering words during a school board meeting May 25 in Loudoun County, Virginia, earned him a temporary suspension from his job at Leesburg Elementary School and garnered national headlines.
“I’m a teacher, but I serve God first,” Cross told board members, “and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion. It’s lying to a child; it’s child abuse; and it’s sinning against our God.”
Judge James E. Plowman, of the 20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, reinstated Cross’ employment on June 8 while his lawsuit against the school district continues. But Cross’ case exemplifies the larger cultural battle playing out in schools and corporate boardrooms, in secondary and college athletics, and even in some churches, over the most fundamental of human distinctions: male and female.
Plowman ruled the school board violated Cross’ constitutionally protected speech by placing him on administrative leave less than 48 hours after the teacher spoke against a proposed policy requiring teachers and students to use transgender-affirming language.
Franklin Graham, writing on Facebook the day of the judge’s ruling for Cross’ job reinstatement, said: “Continue to pray for Tanner and other teachers as an anti-Biblical agenda tries to push them to go against their faith and convictions. Praise God for Christian teachers!”
John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said in his June 4 “Breakpoint This Week” podcast that for Cross’ comments to be considered “beyond the pale” by local school administrators means “Loudoun County is ground zero” for defending religious liberty and free speech.
“This is the time,” Stonestreet said. “There is not a future on this.”
Although transgender ideology is increasingly being imposed on society through President Joe Biden’s executive orders, retributive school board policies, academic indoctrination, corporate endorsements, pseudoscience-driven health care and propagandizing media, there also appears to be a mounting resistance—much like that of Tanner Cross—in defense of free speech, religious liberty, basic biology and fairness.
This year, governors in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Dakota, Alabama, Montana and West Virginia have signed legislation prohibiting biological males who identify as transgender females from participating in women’s competitive school sports. Ohio’s state legislature is currently considering a similar bill. Idaho was the first state to ratify such legislation in March 2020.
Declaring that biology—not ideology—will win the day in ensuring fairness for women’s athletics, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law June 1 prohibiting transgender competition in female sports across the state in middle school, high school and college.
“The bill defines a student’s biological sex based on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth,” DeSantis said during a press conference before the bill signing at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. “We’re also putting in statute ways to actually vindicate the rights of any women athletes who may be discriminated against. Moving forward, any student who’s deprived of an athletic opportunity as a result of a violation of this law will have a right to civil remedies.”
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch told Fox News her state stands ready to defend the Mississippi Fairness Act when it becomes law July 1. “Mississippi passed a law this year based on the basic premise that girls, and only girls, should play in girls’ sports,” she said. “The ink wasn’t even dry from Gov. Reeves’ signature before Sports Illustrated was reporting that the ACLU was preparing to sue and the NCAA threatened to take away championship competitions from our state.”
And during a March press conference, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his state’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” protects female athletes from having “to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.”
The Arkansas Senate also overwhelmingly approved the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act that bans gender transition procedures including “cross-hormone therapy” for trans-identifying children under age 18.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys are representing Cross in his case against the Loudoun County School Board. ADF notes risks of irreparable harm for children with gender dysphoria who are subjected to gender transitioning medical procedures, citing Dr. Stephen B. Levine, a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who writes: “Putting a child or adolescent on a pathway toward life as a transgender person puts that individual at risk of a wide range of long-term or even lifelong harms, including: sterilization (whether chemical or surgical) and associated regret and sense of loss … physical health risks associated with exposure to elevated levels of cross-sex hormones; surgical complications and lifelong aftercare; alienation of family relationships; inability to form healthy romantic relationships and attract a desirable mate; elevated mental health risks.”
ADF lawyers are also representing four female plaintiffs before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference over its policy allowing boys who identify as girls to compete in girls’ sports.
On May 22, Chelsea Mitchell, a former Connecticut high school track athlete and one of the plaintiffs in the case, described in a USA Today op-ed how competing against biological males who identify as transgender females cost her four women’s state championship sprinting titles.
Three days after publishing Mitchell’s original article, however, USA Today editors removed all “male” references from the piece and reposted it with an editor’s apology for the use of “hurtful language” in the original publication.
On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order directed toward “preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation” and implored schools across the country to allow transgender athletes to participate in the sport of their gender identity. Meanwhile, Biden’s Justice Department has vowed to “fully enforce” protections for transgender people.
In March, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Rachel Levine by a 52-48 vote as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Levine is the first openly transgender female to be confirmed by the Senate as a federal official.
Above: Tanner Cross addresses supporters at Cornerstone Chapel, in Leesburg, Virginia, on June 4.
Photo: Norman K. Styer/Loudoun Now