Justice Department Backs Away From Defense Of Pro-Transgender School Guidance
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President Donald Trump's administration took its first step toward curtailing LGBT rights on Friday, backing away from its defense of federal guidance saying public schools should allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity.
President Barack Obama issued the pro-trans guidance last May, prompting a lawsuit from rabidly anti-LGBT Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which was joined by a dozen other states.
In August, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor issued a nationwide injunction barring the Obama administration from implementing the guidance. The Justice Department, under Obama, responded by appealing the injunction to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — seeking to narrow its scope. However, the Justice Department on Friday withdrew that motion, which had been set for oral arguments on Tuesday.
"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," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Transgender students are entitled to the full protection of the United States Constitution and our federal nondiscrimination laws. It is heartbreaking and wrong that the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws would instead work to subvert them for political interests. Donald Trump must immediately reverse course and direct the DOJ to uphold guidance protecting transgender students."
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the DOJ's decision "a callous attack" and "a frightening sign that the Trump administration is ready to discard its obligation to protect all students."
"The Trump administration’s action — yet another in an already long line of attacks on civil rights — is sure to empower bullies," Keisling said. "But it does not change the fact that federal law protects transgender students."
Trump took several anti-LGBT positions during his campaign, including support for the so-called First Amendment Defense Act.
Earlier this month, LGBT advocates feared Trump would rescind Obama's nondiscrimination rule for federal contractors, or sign a sweeping new executive order on "religious freedom."
Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, reportedly talked him out of those moves — but Friday's filing by the Justice Department suggests the administration will find other ways to undermine LGBT equality.