AG Jeff Sessions Just Quietly Sent a Message About Transgender Rights

February 11th 2017

On Friday, the newly empowered Attorney General Jeff Sessions changed course on months of appeals by the Obama administration, signaling a possible rollback of earlier attempts to expand federal protections to transgender students.

In May, the Obama administration ordered public schools and most colleges that receive federal funds to provide adequate facilities for transgender students to use based on their gender identity. The administration cited Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, effectively expanding the use of “sex discrimination” to gender identity.

Immediately, Texas and other states sued the federal government for an overreach that they saw as unconstitutional. In August, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration order and deemed that federal government could not punish schools that did not follow it.

On his second day in office, Sessions withdrew a request initiated by the Obama administration to limit the federal judge’s injunction to only those states that sued against the order originally. Additionally, Sessions filed with the opposed states to end oral arguments for the order, meaning his Department of Justice no longer intends to speak in favor of these accommodations for transgender students.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - an independent agency - maintains a separate case seeking to uphold that pro-transgender interpretation of Title IX.

These quiet moves are the clearest sign yet that the Trump administration will not seek to specify federal rights for transgender people and will instead leave that battle up to the states. Those political confrontations have proven controversial in the past.

In Texas, the legislature filed a bathroom bill that would require people to enter bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificates—and the state has been warned by the NFL that passage of such a bill may endanger their chances at hosting future Super Bowls. The next game that doesn't have a host yet will be in 2022.

Similar legislation in North Carolina led to financial losses after an outcry from business interests, who left and boycotted the state, as well as punitive actions from states such as California. A recent study from the Texas Association of Business postulates that Texas stands to lose $8.5 billion if they pass an anti-trans bathroom bill.

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