During the eight years that Barack Obama was president, his administration worked hard to put in place protections for transgender students. These protections include a determination from the Department of Education that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX and a letter from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that warns schools that they may be susceptible to lawsuits if they force transgender students to “use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity.”
These steps that were made under President Obama appear in danger of being undone, however, under President Trump and his new attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
The day after Sessions was sworn in, the Department of Justice, which he now heads, submitted a legal brief announcing that they would not contest a decision from a Texas federal judge, who had blocked guidance from the federal government requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
As The Washington Post pointed out, a federal judge has already placed a temporary hold on guidance regarding the treatment of transgender students in response to lawsuits filed by a dozen states. The Obama administration had appealed this decision, however, and oral arguments were scheduled to address the issue next week. Now, though, as the brief states, the planned arguments have been removed.
‘Defendants-appellants hereby withdraw their pending November 23, 2016 motion for partial stay pending appeal. The parties jointly move to remove from the Court’s calendar the February 14, 2017 oral argument currently scheduled for that motion. The parties are currently considering how best to proceed.’
This move, so soon after both Trump’s and Sessions’ swearing in, sends a troubling message about how the Trump administration will handle the issue of transgender rights for the next four years.
Many students are currently working to challenge and change the policies of their school districts, and they will likely have a tough road ahead of them under the new president and his staff.
Both President Trump and Vice President Pence have made it clear that they do not think it is the responsibility of the federal government to determine schools’ policies for transgender students.
In an interview in May of last year, Trump told WaPo that states should be in charge of setting up protections for transgender individuals.
‘You’ve got to protect all people, even though it’s a tiny percentage of 1 percent. I think from that standpoint, [states] should come up with a policy that’s going to work for everybody and protect people.’
Trump also said during the interview that he thought most states would “make the right decisions” without interference from the federal government.
Pence shared similar sentiments during a separate interview when he said that he feels that “Washington has no business intruding on the operation of our local schools.”
Naturally, transgender rights advocates are not pleased with this move from the Trump administration. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement about the decision:
‘Transgender students are entitled to the full protection of the United States Constitution and our federal nondiscrimination laws. It is heartbreaking and wrong that the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws would instead work to subvert them for political interests. President Trump must immediately reverse course and direct the DOJ to uphold guidance protecting transgender students.’
Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union have made it clear that they will not stand for any unconstitutional moves from the Trump administration. Completely justifiable outrage broke out in response to Trump’s travel ban, and it seems that more is on the way as a result of this latest decision.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images.