The Trump administration appears to be moving backward on transgender rights and defying the Obama administration that was looking to expand them.
In a legal brief filed on Friday, the Justice Department rolled back an Obama administration move to allow transgender students to use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.
A back-and-forth started in August with a Texas court order that barred the Obama administration from instructing states on how to accommodate transgender students, in response to a lawsuit filed by a dozen states that opposed the guidance. The Obama administration objected to that injunction, saying that it flew in the face of rights given by Title IX. On Friday, the Justice Department withdrew the government’s objection on behalf of the Trump administration.
Though the withdrawal doesn’t immediately affect students in a tangible way due to the ongoing Texas court order, it signals the unlikelihood of Trump’s Justice Department moving forward on transgender rights.
“We saw this coming, and it’s not a surprise,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Huffington Post Saturday. “But the Trump administration is a mess. They take on the people they perceive as the weakest first. I don’t think they understand how strong we are.”
After the withdrawal, Keisling green-lit a “School Action Center” dedicated to providing resources to transgender students and their parents, as well as sending letters to “every school in the country to remind them that Title IX is still the law of the land.”
Keisling worries, however, that the Trump administration will work against longstanding protections against discrimination.
“I think we can expect to see the Justice Department say that they don’t want to enforce Title IX for all,” Keisling said.
The Justice Department’s withdrawal came less than two days after Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general. Allies have long worried about Sessions’ constant and unwavering votes against LGBTQ issues and what they might mean for the Justice Department.
Part of his role as attorney general will be taking control of the department’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law, HB2, which bars transgender people from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity. Sessions has the power now to withdraw that suit, too.
Trump originally opposed HB2, but flip-flopped early last year and said states have a right to pass any law they choose.