by Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune August 22, 2016
A federal judge in Fort Worth has blocked Obama administration guidelines directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity.
In a 38-page order released Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor said the “status quo” should remain in place nationwide until the court rules on the case, or a federal appeals court provides further guidance. O'Connor did not issue a ruling from the bench earlier this month after a hearing during which state attorneys — as part of a Texas-led, 13-state effort to block the guidelines nationwide — argued they unconstitutionally “hold a gun to the head” of states and school districts.
“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy while using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” O’Connor wrote in the order. He added: “The sensitivity to this matter is heightened because Defendant’s actions apply to the youngest child attending school and continues every year throughout each child’s educational career.”
“The resolution of this difficult policy decision is not, however, the subject of this order,” he said. The lawsuit stems from guidelines issued in early May by the Obama administration, which state that discrimination against transgender individuals violates federal nondiscrimination statutes, including the Title IX prohibition on discrimination based on sex at educational institutions that receive federal funding. Those protections, the administration said, extend to gender identity and give transgender students the right to use their preferred bathrooms in public school, requiring schools to treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX compliance, the guidelines say.
At a hearing Aug. 12, the first in the case against the federal government, a member of the Texas attorney general’s team told O’Connor that the federal government “usurped” the authority of states and schools by requiring that “sexes must be mixed” in “intimate areas” like bathrooms.
In his order, O’Connor said the injunction should apply nationwide rather than just to schools in the court’s jurisdiction, as requested by the Obama administration, noting that “states who do not want to be covered by this injunction can easily avoid doing so by state law.”
The injunction “therefore only applies to those states whose laws direct separation,” he said. “However, an injunction should not unnecessarily interfere with litigation currently pending before other federal courts on this subject regardless of the state law.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2016/08/22/forth-worth-judge-blocks-obama-transgender-guideli/.
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