President Donald Trump’s administration announced today that it is reversing previous transgender bathroom law guidance set by his predecessor Barack Obama in 2016.
In May 2016, the Obama administration issued landmark changes to public schools, requiring officials to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. According to a report from Reuters, failure to comply, or insistently forcing transgender children to use bathrooms matching their gender at birth, would result in the government withdrawing federal funding from the institutions.
This move didn’t sit well with 13 state governments, who filed a lawsuit to put a halt to the ruling and accused the Obama administration of “federal meddling” in what should ideally be handled by individual states. The Chicago Tribune also quoted Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who compared the ruling to “blackmail,” and suggested that his state would rather forfeit federal funding than comply with the guidance.
Breaking News: The Trump administration rescinds rules on bathrooms for transgender students https://t.co/XNJzPfYVxu
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 23, 2017
Several hours ago, White House spokesman Sean Spicer played it cagey with reporters, simply saying that he expects “further guidance to come out on that today.” But in a later interview, he said that the Trump administration had to act quickly due to a pending Supreme Court case involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student from Virginia, whose family is suing school officials who refuse to allow him to use the boys’ room.
Interestingly, Reuters noted that the Trump administration withdrew a letter from the Education Department expressing its support for Grimm.
Ahead of today’s announcement that the U.S. government will be reversing the nine-month-old transgender bathroom law guidance, there was some conflict regarding the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title X, a law that was passed in 1972 banning sex discrimination in schools. But the law’s language is ambiguous when it comes to protections for transgender individuals, or people who identify with a different gender than the one they were born with.
In a statement prepared today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Obama’s 2016 reforms “did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX.”
Sessions added in his statement that such matters are best handled by state and local governments and Congress, rather than the federal government.
“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.”
As Donald Trump and his cabinet were preparing to announce the rescission of Obama’s transgender bathroom law reforms, about 200 people were assembled in front of the White House, waving rainbow flags and railing against the Trump administration’s latest move with chants of “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”
Reuters added that the reversal of the guidelines may likely stoke the fire and renew debates between traditionalists and progressives, and potentially spark protests similar to those that erupted following Trump’s victory in the 2016 elections and his January inauguration as 45th president of the United States.
— Freedom NH (@FreedomNH_) February 21, 2017
— Freedom for All USA (@freedom4allusa) February 23, 2017
In the aftermath of the administration’s new move and in the immediate run-up to it, transgender rights supporters expressed disappointment in the ruling. Speaking to the Washington Post, Gavin Grimm said that he was “disheartened” upon hearing that the Trump administration would rescind the existing guidelines, which he felt were “incredibly, incredibly empowering.”
Similarly, Texas woman Amber Briggle said that the withdrawal is a “blow” to LGBT, particularly transgender rights, though she feels that the move only represents a “temporary setback.” Briggle, who is mother to a 9-year-old transgender boy, added that she remains hopeful that the Supreme Court would continue to protect the rights of her son and other trans students.
On a more pointed note, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten accused the Trump administration of putting trans children at greater risk of bullying and discrimination.
“Reversing this guidance tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans,” she said in quotes published by the Chicago Tribune shortly before the guidelines for transgender bathroom laws were rescinded.
[Featured Image by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]