The Trump administration has revoked the Obama-era regulations that extended certain protections to transgender students, allowing them to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities.
The roll-back announced on Wednesday by the Department of Justice and Education Department resulted in a furious reaction from the opposition Democratic party leaders.
The Trump administration cited too many lawsuits and legal loopholes in the Obama-era regulation, which required public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities, as one of the reasons for its roll back.
It informed the Supreme Court that they are revoking guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice that clarified that transgender students are protected from sex discrimination by Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination.
The guidance, which was issued last May by the Obama administration, reiterated the rights of transgender students to use restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity.
“The guidance issued by the previous administration has given rise to several legal questions. As a result, a federal court in August 2016 issued a nationwide injunction barring the department from enforcing a portion of its application,” said US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“Since that time, the Department has not enforced that part of the guidance, thus there is no immediate impact to students by rescinding this guidance. This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find -- and in many cases have found -- solutions that protect all students,” DeVos said.
The US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance, he said.
“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue. The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment,” Sessions said.
A furious Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said withdrawing “the historic guidance from” the Obama administration to protect transgender students is “a cruel blow” to an already vulnerable group of young people.
“This move shows that President Trump cannot be trusted to defend the rights of LGBT Americans. This is not a state issue. This is an issue of equality for all. The administration’s wanton disregard of protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community is harmful to our communities and our schools,” she said.
Senator Ben Cardin wished that the Trump administration would have considered the mental and physical wellbeing of the transgender students being targeted by this action rather than appeasing his political base.
“Today’s withdrawal of civil rights protections afforded to transgender students under Title IX by the Departments of Education and Justice is a tragic step backward for these children. It is alarming that the primary enforcers of federal civil rights protections for students have chosen to turn their back on some of the most vulnerable children in our classrooms,” he said.
“Regardless of a student’s zip code, they deserve a safe learning environment where they are able to reach their full academic potential,” Cardin said in a statement.
American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project director James Esseks said revoking the guidance shows that Trump’s promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. ACLU said it would challenge the revocation in court.
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block, who is lead counsel for Gavin Grimm at the Supreme Court in March in the case Gloucester County School Board v. GG, said while it’s disappointing to see the Trump administration revoke the guidance, the administration cannot change what Title IX means.
“When it decided to hear Gavin Grimm’s case, the Supreme Court said it would decide which interpretation of Title IX is correct, without taking any administration’s guidance into consideration. We’re confident that that the law is on Gavin’s side and he will prevail just as he did in the Fourth Circuit,” Block said.
Image: Gender neutral signs on public restrooms in North Carolina. Photograph: Sara D Davis/Getty Images