by Seth Hemmelgarn
Advocates for transgender people are expression opposition to the Trump administration’s move against trans students.
Under newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the U.S. Department of Justice has withdrawn its opposition to a lawsuit by Texas and several other states that would allow discrimination against trans students. (Specifically, in a February 10 filing with the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals, the DOJ withdrew its request for a stay of an injunction on enforcement of pro-trans guidelines put forward by the Obama administration.)
“The Trump administration has reminded us that rollbacks of LGBT civil rights do not have to be thunderous or accompanied by great fanfare,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a February 12 news release. “They can happen quietly, incrementally, while the nation is otherwise distracted.”
With the court filing the DOJ “has signaled – less than 48 hours after confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general by the U.S. Senate – that it does indeed intend to dismantle as much of recent LGBT civil rights gains as possible,” Zbur added.
Zbur said that EQCA, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization would “use every measure at its disposal to ensure that federal non-discrimination protections remain safe from attack and that all students are equally protected by the U.S. Constitution.”
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, said in a statement, “This shameful action sends the message that the country’s top Education and Justice Department officials will not fulfill their duty to protect transgender students from illegal harassment and discrimination. Fortunately, federal law has not changed, and school districts across the country must still comply with Title IX.”
Hayashi said that regardless of what the Trump administration says, Title IX, which protects against discrimination based on sex, “remains on transgender students’ side.”
“We will continue our work to support transgender young people and – in cases like that of [TLC] client Ash Whitaker, who was forced to use a separate bathroom from his peers – we will take legal action when schools cross the line and single youth out for harassment because they are transgender,” he said.
Whitaker is a Wisconsin student who has filed suit against his school district, which denied him access to male-designated restrooms at his high school.
Like Zbur, Chad Griffin, president of the national LGBT organization the Human Rights Campaign, also noted that Sessions’ move came less than two days after he was sworn into his post.
“After being on the job for less than 48 hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled his intent to undermine the equal dignity of transgender students,” Griffin stated. “Transgender students are entitled to the full protection of the United States Constitution and our federal non-discrimination laws. It is heartbreaking and wrong that the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws would instead work to subvert them for political interests. President Trump must immediately reverse course and direct the DOJ to uphold guidance protecting transgender students.”
In response to questions from the Bay Area Reporter, Nicole A. Navas, a DOJ spokeswoman, said in her email that her agency wouldn’t comment “beyond the government’s filing in this pending litigation.”