A day after targeting 11 million undocumented immigrants for deportation, and a few weeks after his refugee ban was stymied in court, President Trump has set his sights on another vulnerable group: transgender students. The Associated Press is reporting that the Trump administration is going to revoke the federal transgender bathroom guidelines set last spring by the Obama administration. The guidelines told public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen identity.
UPDATE: The Trump administration has officially revoked transgender student bathroom protections, reports the Associated Press.
One month into the Trump presidency, it’s clear that he’s setting out to do what he promised on the stump: strip rights and protections away from those he targeted with his dark campaign rhetoric. As with many issues, Trump both supported and opposed Obama’s trans bathroom rules during the campaign before finally landing on the opposing side.
The Trump administration believes that bathroom rules are for the states to decide. Critics of the Obama guidelines say they relied on a generous interpretation of Title IX, which is the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and activities. Thirteen states sued to stop it, and in August a Texas judge temporarily halted its full implementation. That lawsuit will be meaningless when the Trump administration officially releases its new guidance.
The Obama trans bathroom guidelines were not legally binding, but schools that did not follow suit ran the risk of losing federal funding. Regardless of where you stand on which bathrooms transgender kids should use, there is a debate to be had about the role the federal government should play in local matters such as school bathrooms, and whether the federal purse should be used as a cudgel. That the Trump administration will reverse these guidelines as one of its first acts, though, speaks less to this debate and more to scoring political points with the president’s base, as well as its wanting to influence an upcoming Supreme Court case.
In March the Supreme Court will hear G.G. versus Gloucester County School Board, involving a Virginia transgender boy named Gavin Grimm and the school officials who want to prevent him from using the boys’ room at his high school. The proposed change by the Trump administration will likely undermine Grimm’s case.
The trans bathroom order did not come (as nothing does from this White House) without some drama. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has been the target of progressive ire and derision, objected to the decision, reports the New York Times, saying she was uncomfortable with it. DeVos was overruled by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the president, so she acquiesced and signed the order rather than resign. Both the Department of Justice and Education must sign off.
The full letter has yet to be released. The final draft will be sent to schools across the country.