Federal Injunction Halts School Bathroom Directives from Obama Administration

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

The Obama administration has been blocked by 13 states over an attempt to broaden the application of a statute that governs the operation of each state and locality that receives federal funding for schools.

The Texas-led coalition against the use of bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender people based on their gender identity believes that directives issued by the White House are unconstitutional, with the White House and the Department of Education issued a nationwide temporary restraining order by Judge Reed O'Connor, a Fort Worth federal judge.

Questions have been raised on how the injunction issued by O'Connor can be applied to the whole of the US when other courts in some areas have upheld transgender rights, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Pertaining to gender identity, O'Conner ruled that:

"[I]t cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex … meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth."

The intention of the directives was to challenge the barriers and stereotypes that transgender students face by extending civil protections to them when accessing restrooms.

Cristian Farias of the Huffington Post reports that the ruling has been made on the view that the Obama Administration did not follow the correct administrative channels before issuing the directives to states.

By issuing the directives to the states to change their practices without a period of notice or releasing the proposal for public comment, the Obama administration has effectively attempted a re-write of laws by tying funding to conformity, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The ruling is a setback for transgender rights advocates.

In the Statesman, Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign Sarah Warbelow states that the decision made by O'Connor is one that:

"…puts thousands of transgender students at even greater risk of marginalization, harassment and discrimination…All students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be able to learn in an environment free from discrimination."

The heads of civil rights at the DOJ and DOE, Vanita Gupta and Catherine Lhamon, have said of the directives that they provide a solid, stable foundation for all students:

"[T]aken together, we hope these new resources provide clarity for everyone ― from state and local leaders to educators to students and families ― about how to create a safe, welcoming and supportive learning environment for every student."

In a letter, the Justice Department has conveyed disappointment with the result of the ruling and is currently taking the time to review options, one being to challenge the injunction.

Republicans are arguing that laws governing the use of bathrooms based on a person's gender recorded on their birth certificate, such as those in North Carolina, are common sense privacy safeguards.

The Tribune reports that the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has likened laws like those in North Carolina to the policies of racial segregation.

KVUE reports that the treatment of transgender students has been left unsolved while the injunction is in place.

The injunction will continue to be effective until a trial to rule the cases merits takes place.

The Texas led coalition also comprises Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi and Kentucky.

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