Trump Reverses Obama’s Transgender Student Protections

President Trump has officially rescinded the Obama administration’s transgender student protections, asserting that these policies should be a matter of state rights.

In a joint letter, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued notice that they were withdrawing the federal guidance to “further and more completely” investigate the “legal issues involved.”

This comes after the Justice Department announced that it would not continue to advocate for trans rights in the Gavin Grimm lawsuit. The 17-year-old student is suing his school district over its refusal to accommodate his transgender identity, a case that is now on course to reach the Supreme Court.

“In addition, the Departments believe that … there must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local school districts in establishing education policy,” the letter goes on to say.

Technically, the Trump administration can’t get rid of these protections

It’s worth remembering that any federal guidance or executive authority can only interpret and/or build upon existing law within narrow bounds. As such, the protections announced in May of last year by the Obama administration were not new.

Instead, Obama issued guidance, in which he specifically highlighted the administration’s belief that existing federal law — in this case, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which bans sex discrimination – already protects trans students.

That means that, try as the Trump administration might, the actual underlying legal basis for the Obama directive — namely, sex discrimination protections — remains in effect.

What the DOJ and Department of Education have simply stated that they will not implement this aspect of the law’s protection with regards to trans students because they do not believe the Obama administration’s interpretation to be valid. As a federal court has previously contended, that decision remains within the president’s authority because there are no specific laws supporting trans rights in this way.

Nevertheless, schools and higher education facilities must follow federal law. If they believe that sex discrimination protections do encompass trans rights, they could continue to operate as such — even in states where trans rights protections have not been enshrined.

Admittedly, in hostile states like Texas, this could set up a legal fight, but it is within the power of educational institutions to do what is right.

This federal guidance does not overrule state authority

With this action, the Trump administration made clear that trans rights should be left to states to decide. This is of course wrong-headed, as matters of basic civil rights are not open to debate or the arbitration of state lawmakers. Nevertheless, many states will now be operating without specific state legislation to protect trans people — and trans children, in particular. There are a handful of states, however, that do have such protections.

California, Colorado, New York and more have at least some legislation providing for equal access to public accommodations or nondiscrimination provisions that may be interpreted as inclusive of transgender people. The federal government may no longer support trans children, but these states can and do.

How can we help trans students? 

There is no escaping the fact that this is a significant blow to trans rights. Purely from an ideological perspective, the Trump administration — which, let us not forget, made a big show of their supposedly LGBTQI-friendly views during the presidential election — has caved to the transphobic elements of the Republican party.

While state administrations may be hostile to trans rights too, the guidance is clear: schools have the power to set their own policies on this issue. How far the tolerance will extend remains to be seen, but at the least, this order highlights the power of educational facilities.

As a result, now is the time to work with schools to educate them about the necessity of providing public accommodations, remind them of their duty to nurture and provide for every child and help them create affirming and inclusive spaces. Concerned parents can also seek legal advice from the ACLU and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

We can also help by pressing state lawmakers to enact legislation like California’s trans-inclusive education law, which guarantees that all trans students are given access to the same school facilities and programs as other students. Such policies are necessary to support the educational needs of trans youth and affirm their worth as human beings.

Not sure what the laws are in your state? The Human Rights Campaign provides an interactive map that clearly shows the status of LGBTQI rights where you live.

Lastly, we must keep the pressure on the Trump administration to rethink this shameful act. Millions of Care2 members have brought about real change by signing petitions and committing to online and offline advocacy. We can do the same today to help ensure that every trans child knows that they deserve the same rights and opportunities as their peers.

Take Action

Sign this petition to urge President Trump to reaffirm trans rights for our school kids!

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

87 comments

Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Carl R
Carl R2 years ago

thanks!!!

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Sabrina D
Past Member 2 years ago

I've just signed the petition.

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Fred Campbell
Fred Campbell2 years ago

:-(

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Elaine W
Elaine W2 years ago

A pox on Trump discrimination. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I say reverse any support for Trump. Seriously.

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LF F
LF F2 years ago

It is a sensitive subject that one's either detest and feel strong on or delight in and and feel strong on. As a christian spirit, Hollywood and Society has told me that my spiritual beliefs on multiple subjects aren't good despite---- my Bible telling me that it is. Scripture says preach to all creatures and this is not shoveling anything down anyone's throat. Walk away.

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