A gay Midtown man filed a federal lawsuit against state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart for blocking him from her legislative Facebook page after he criticized her anti-transgender bill.
Tom Biedermann filed the suit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
“I’m a believer in our constitutional First Amendment guarantees, and if we don’t stand up for our constitutional rights, we could lose them,” he told Project Q Atlanta.
Ehrhart (photo) in October announced plans to file a bill that makes it a felony to give hormone treatments or perform gender affirmation surgery on transgender minors. Biedermann disagreed with the measure, as did LGBTQ activists and lawmakers.
“I decided to get on her Facebook page and challenge some of the statements being made that weren’t based on credible evidence-based science regarding transgender health outcomes,” he said.
Biedermann also posted a case study about a transgender girl who was given puberty blockers.
“My comments were, ‘Where were the parade of horribles? Can you describe the science about why this young girl shouldn’t have been given puberty blockers?’” he said.
Ehrhart deleted the comments then banned Biedermann from her page.
“I guess she didn’t like the comments that were counter to what she was proposing,” he said.
Ehrhart violated Biedermann’s First and 14th Amendment rights, according to the lawsuit.
“Despite the creation of a public forum for public discussion, [Ehrhart] has engaged in targeted censorship of the speech of [Biedermann] and others on her Facebook Page through a variety of methods including deleting comments and blocking posters entirely,” according to the lawsuit.
Biedermann asked for Ehrhart to restore his access to her Facebook page and for attorney’s fees and compensatory and punitive damages.
Gerry Weber, Biedermann’s attorney, said Ehrhart frequently blocks critics from her social media accounts.
“At this point we have a tally of about 60 people that she’s blocked, including her political opponents and a whole bunch of folks who simply wanted to express their concerns about her legislation,” he said.
Ehrhart did not respond to Project Q’s questions about the lawsuit.
She told the AJC that her social media accounts have a code of conduct that prohibits profanity, obscenity, threats and sexual remarks. Biedermann said he didn’t violate Ehrhart’s code of conduct policy.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “No profanity, no harassing comments, nothing that would incite violence or anything objectionable. To me that’s just common sense.”
Social media is “the primary vehicle by which constituents communicate with their legislators,” according to Weber.
“Elected officials’ social media pages are not cheering squads,” he said. “You’re supposed to hear both the good and the bad.”
Ehrhart filed the anti-trans bill, which she called the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” in February. It has not gained any traction. The legislative session was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ehrhart compared transgender people to moose during her 2018 campaign. Her opponent at the time, LGBTQ ally Jen Slipakoff, has a trans daughter. Ehrhart won the election after her husband, Earl Ehrhart, retired from the legislature after becoming its most outspoken anti-LGBTQ member.
Ginny Ehrhart vowed to revive a push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation in the 2019 session, but no such bills passed.
She also spoke out against a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors during a hearing at the state Capitol in March. Ehrhart objected to transgender children being included in the bill.