The Department of Education will not stand by and allow schools to ignore federal law that protects the rights of LGBT students, according to Education Secretary John King, Jr., who has called for the "bathroom laws" be repealed.
Tyler Kingkade, writing for The Huffington Post, quoted King:
"They're hateful laws and should be repealed," King said at a conference for education reporters.
In Mississippi, HB 1523 allows employers and schools to discriminate against transgender people, and in North Carolina HB 2 requires state institutions of higher education to ban students from locker rooms or restrooms that match their gender identity. Although officials at the University of North Carolina have agreed to abide by the new law, however they have no idea how they can enforce the measure.
King's comments may support the concern of opponents of these regulations who say that federal grants often worth billions of dollars could be threatened by the laws.
"I do not want to get ahead of enforcement actions we may take in regards to North Carolina and Mississippi," King said. "My hope is legislators will realize they've made a terrible mistake."
The Obama administration has made it clear that Title IX protects transgender students from discrimination.
The loss of federal funding could mean, for example, that Pell Grants and student loans would not be available to any students who attend the University of North Carolina.
King added that the state laws send a bad message to young people who are grappling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. In April, President Obama called for the laws to be overturned.
A recent lawsuit in Virginia concerning a transgender student and the bathroom laws resulted in a 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that may affect North Carolina. But backers of the "bathroom privacy laws" say that the Obama administration went too far when interpreting a segment of the Title IX gender-equity law, writes Kelly Hinchliffe for Capitol Broadcasting Company.
Supporters of the transgender community and the government are standing their ground by insisting that federal legislation requires that students who are transgender be allowed to use the restroom and locker room that agrees with their gender identity.
The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals case is going back to a lower court for trial, and North Carolina General Assembly leaders say there will probably not be a full repeal of HB 2. Any changes that do occur, they add, would focus on a portion of the bill not related to the bathroom provisions.
The Associated Press published a portion of a brief from the US Education Department and the Justice Department concerning the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals:
"Treating a student differently from other students because his birth-assigned sex diverges from his gender identity constitutes differential treatment on the basis of sex under Title IX," the departments said in a friend-of-the-court brief.
The Mississippi law makes it possible for religious groups and some privately-owned businesses to refuse services to transgender people or same-sex couples. The law goes into effect on July 1. At that time, any school or employer has the right to refuse transgender people's use of the bathroom with which they identify.