A US federal judge has temporarily blocked President Obama’s guidelines allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
In Texas, US District Judge Reed O’Connor ordered a nationwide injunction on enforcing the recommendations, as demanded in a lawsuit filed by a number of states.
The states claim that the Obama Administration is aiming “to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights”.
O’Connor found that the states have a strong and winnable case and issued the temporary injunction; suspending the guidelines until the matter has worked its way through the legal system.
The recommendations were issued by the Departments of Education and Justice in May to direct federally funded schools to allow transgender students to have equal access to facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity.
The department said this was “to help ensure that transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment”.
The states say that while the Obama Administration claims that the guidelines are non-binding, they are in effect “coercive”, a claim that the judge agreed with; stating that they are “compulsory in nature”.
“Judge O’Connor’s decision to bar the Department of Justice from enforcing this important guidance puts thousands of transgender students at even greater risk of marginalisation, harassment, and discrimination as they return to school this fall,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
“All students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be able to learn in an environment free from discrimination,” she said.
Warbelow noted that, despite the judge’s decision, schools are still free to follow the federal guidance, adding that, “we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognise that discrimination against transgender students is a form of sex discrimination.”