Transgender students face setback in bathroom row
Gender directive blocked in Texas
In a move that’s seen by many civil rights campaigners as a backward step in the fight to end discrimination, a Texas judge has blocked federal guidelines instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.
The temporary injunction issued by US District Judge Reed O’Connor blocks the directive handed down by Barack Obama which was designed to create safer environments for transgender students at public school districts and universities. The government guidelines asked schools to let young people use the bathrooms that corresponded with their own gender identity, rather than their gender assignment at birth.
O’Connor’s decision was made in time for the start of the new term, after Texas and twelve other states challenged the Obama directive saying it was unconstitutional.
Procedures not correctly followed
O’Connor ruled that the federal government had violated procedures and incorrectly interpreted existing laws that were intended to be limited to ‘the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.’
Lead plaintiff and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said:
‘We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama administration’s latest illegal federal overreach. This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform.’
The legal battles go on
Paul Castillo, a Dallas attorney for the gay rights group Lambda Legal expressed disappointment at the ruling. ‘I think today is going to be a hard day for transgender students,’ he said. ‘The decision is certainly emotional, and certainly an attack on transgender students’ dignity.’
Judge O’Connor said his ruling does not preclude states following the federal guidelines if they wish to do so, but states were free to ignore the guidelines without fear that they would be breaking the law.
The Obama administration had told the court that recipients of federal education dollars ‘are clearly on notice’ that anti-discrimination polices must be followed. Texas alone gets roughly $10 billion in federal education funds.
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