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Trump sets sights on changing transgender student bathroom rules

The president plans to issue new guidance on transgender laws in public schools.


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Posted on Feb 21, 2017   Updated on May 24, 2021, 11:07 pm CDT

The Trump administration is preparing to roll back federal guidance set by the Obama administration that protects transgender students’ use of bathrooms in public schools.

Trump had previously said that the government should protect transgender people, but it should ultimately be up to states to decide whether people can legally use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

“I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time, that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday.

The Obama administration believed that denying transgender people rights of choice violates Title IX, which federally prohibits sex discrimination in public schools. Taking action against the guidance put in place by the Obama administration would be a civil rights setback for the LGBTQ community.

New guidance at the federal level from Trump wouldn’t immediately change much across American public schools because a federal judge put a hold on Obama’s directive, which stressed gender identity over biological sex, back in May. 

A Trump pivot here would impact ongoing legal cases, however.

“Such clear action directed at children would be a brazen and shameless attack on hundreds of thousands of young Americans who must already defend themselves against schoolyard bullies, but are ill-equipped to fight bullies on the floors of their state legislatures and in the White House,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a statement released Tuesday.

According to the Washington Post, nearly 800 parents of transgender students wrote letters to Trump last week, pleading against the removal of the guidance that currently protects their children from discrimination.

States like Texas and North Carolina are legal and legislative battlegrounds for transgender rights—Trump’s decision could help settle those scores.

H/T the Washington Post

Update Feb. 22, 12:30pm CT: According to the New York Times, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Besty DeVos haven’t been able upon whether to rescind Obama’s federal transgender bathroom guidelines. DeVos “initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it,” wrote the Times.

However, in a press conference this afternoon, Sean Spicer said DeVos is “100 percent” behind Trump’s decision to lift the guidelines in favor of state laws. “The conclusions, everybody in the administration has agreed upon,” Spicer said. “There’s no daylight between the president and any of the secretaries. I think there has been some discussion between the timing of the issuance and recommendations, or between the exact wording. But as far as the conclusions go, I’ve made it clear and the president’s made it clear in his campaign that he’s a firm believer in states’ rights and certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.”

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*First Published: Feb 21, 2017, 8:25 pm CST