The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidelines that allowed transgender students across the US to access to bathrooms that reflect their gender identity, not the sex on their birth certificate.
The guidelines were released in May last year and were lauded as “groundbreaking” by LGBTI advocates despite having no legal standing.
The federal law known as “Title IX” bans sex discrimination in education, and the Obama administration argued in its directive that those protections also extend to a person’s gender identity. This was met with outcry from many US states, with 13 of them suing the federal government in response.
Attorney-General Jeff Sessions announced in a statement: “The prior guidance documents didn’t contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance.
“Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue.
“The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
The Associated Press reported the Justice and Education departments sent a letter to schools nationwide on Wednesday saying the Obama directive had caused confusion and lawsuits over its application, and it was lifted, with other anti-bullying safeguards to remain in place.
It will now be at the discretion of states and schools to decide whether transgender students can access to bathrooms reflecting their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin slammed the decision, saying it “isn’t a ‘state’s rights’ issue, it’s a civil rights issue.”
“These transgender students simply want to go to school in the morning without fear of discrimination or harassment,” he said.
“When this guidance was issued last year, it provided our families – and other families like our own across the country – with the knowledge and security that our government was determined to protect our children from bullying and discrimination.”
National LGBTQ Task Force director Rea Carey said any move to rescind the guidelines was “shameful”.
“Protecting those who are the most vulnerable in our education system should always be a top priority for any President of the United States and his cabinet,” Carey said.
“Their jobs should be to ensure that all students regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, receive a top notch education.”
A case currently before the US Supreme Court involving a transgender student could settle the Title IX issue next month.