Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Eleven States File Suit Against Obama Administration Over Guidance Protecting Transgender Students

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Eleven states led by Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton have filed suit against the Obama administration regarding federal guidance that says transgender students are protected under Title IX - the federal law that bans discrimination in public education.

The Advocate has the details:

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, against the Justice Department, the Education Department, the Labor Department, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reports The Washington Post.

The states joining Texas include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia. The Arizona Department of Education, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, and school districts in Texas and Arizona are also plaintiffs in the suit.

The guidance issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice detailed guidelines explaining the obligations that schools receiving public funding have to their transgender students.

These obligations include respecting the gender identity of transgender students by using the student’s preferred name and pronouns, and ensuring them access to sports teams, educational opportunities, and sex-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity, according to a letter sent Friday to public K-12 schools nationwide, as well as to colleges and universities that receive federal funding.

The letter from the Obama administration plainly defines a school’s responsibilities to its trans students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive any public funding.

“This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status,” reads the letter. It goes on to explain that the federal agencies consider a student's gender identity to be the sole determinant of that student's sex, for the purposes of Title IX protections.

"This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity," explains the letter, indicating that everyone has a gender identity, regardless of whether they identify as transgender or cisgender (nontrans).

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement which read in part:

Today, HRC blasted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton regarding media reports that he will launch a shameful attack on transgender youth across the state and the nation. Paxton, who currently faces three felony fraud indictments for violating state securities laws, civil fraud charges, and a separate investigation from the Texas State Bar for encouraging clerks to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling on nationwide marriage equality, has repeatedly attacked LGBT people in an effort to score political points.

“Ken Paxton has already disgraced himself and his office by undermining the rule of law and shamefully encouraging state officials to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last June. Now, he’s gone so far as to attack transgender youth, whom he has a responsibility to protect as Attorney General,” said HRC Communications Director Jay Brown. “Countless schools all across the country have policies in place that ensure transgender students are safe, protected from discrimination and can live authentic lives. Ken Paxton’s use of taxpayer resources to dismantle such protections is a reckless and expensive abdication of his responsibilities, and he should be held accountable.”

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