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Texas judge blocks Obama transgender bathroom rules

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine, on Sept. 30, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Texas has sided with school districts opposing the Obama administration’s directive on transgender bathrooms, temporarily blocking the directive just before on the first day of school in Texas Monday.

The ruling prevents the U.S. Department of Education from implementing guidance that required school districts to allow transgender students to choose which restroom and locker facilities to use.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 38-page order said federal agencies exceeded their authority under the 1972 law banning sex discrimination in schools. The injunction applies nationwide, and follows a number of other recent court rulings against transgender students and employees.

The Texas ruling, issued late Sunday, turned on the congressional intent behind Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires that “facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex.”

“It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex” in that law “meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth,” the judge wrote. “Without question, permitting educational institutions to provide separate housing to male and female students, and separate educational instruction concerning human sexuality, was to protect students’ personal privacy, or discussion of their personal privacy, while in the presence of members of the opposite biological sex.”


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The judge also ruled that the guidance failed to follow the law requiring that it get input from the public before drafting new regulations, and suggested that the federal guidance could be implemented if the Department of Education conducts a more formal rule-making process.

And he emphasized that nothing in the law prohibits other states from requiring transgender facilities on their own. “Those states who do not want to be covered by this injunction can easily avoid doing so by state law,” he said. Other lawsuits by transgender students can also go forward, he said.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” wrote O’Connor, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2007 and sits in Fort Worth, Texas. “The sensitivity to this matter is heightened because defendants’ actions apply to the youngest child attending school and continues for every year throughout each child’s educational career.”

The decision is at least the third legal setback for transgender rights in federal court this month. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling requiring a Virginia school district to allow a biologically female transgender student to use the boy’s restroom on Aug. 3. And last Thursday, a federal judge in Detroit upheld the firing of a transgender funeral home employee, ruling that “neither transgender status nor gender identity are protected classes” under anti-discrimination laws.


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The Texas case was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, who led a group of plaintiffs that included 12 other states and two school districts.

The plaintiffs argued that the Obama administration guidance came with the implicit threat that federal education funds could be withheld if school districts refused to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their chosen gender identity. The guidance also had implications for federal student privacy laws, threatening education officials with sanctions if they fail to address students by their preferred gender pronouns.

In a statement, Paxton praised the ruling as correcting “illegal federal overreach” by the Obama administration.

“This president is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threating to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform,” Paxton said. “That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect states and school districts, who are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.”

U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the Obama administration was disappointed in the decision and that “we are reviewing our options.”

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  • Such a big deal! If you dress and act like a female and like penises, go to the ladies. If you dress and act like a man and like vaginas, go to the mens room. If the person in the stall next to you doesn’t lust after your goodies there’s nothing to be uncomfortable about.

  • I think the judge’s reasoning is quite sound. If reversed on appeal we cannot discount the possibility the some individuals, students or otherwise, will attempt to take advantage of the situation for their own prurient reasons, the percentage of which I wouldn’t hazard to guess.

  • The way most public bathrooms are designed, one is not going to see any body parts that are normally clothed. However, locker rooms and shower rooms are a different story. Once while I was in a European country, the cleaning lady who was a young attractive woman just walked into the men’s room at the airport and started cleaning while men were answering natures call. Nobody seemed too concerned.

  • ” ‘It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex in that law meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth,’ the judge wrote.”

    Of course it can be disputed. There is nothing in Title IX that insists it only applies to birth gender. Transgendered people existed long before 1972, when Title IX became law. The judge’s argument does not hold up.

  • I agree. I’ve used non gendered bathrooms with multiple stalls and urinals. Both women and men were using the facilities at the same time and no one paid any attention.

  • Edward, my understanding is that transgendered people are not the problem. It’s heterosexual predators who are the problem, especially males. They seem to be the problem in any kind of sexual offense. (Women sexual offenders are in the single digit percentages.) So why target trans people? That seems like requiring women to wear burqas so males aren’t tempted.

    Let’s go after the ones who have the problem.

  • I tend to agree that those who identify as transgendered are not the issue, but I do worry about the heterosexual male predators whom you cite. Ideally, single unit lockable bathrooms are the answer, but I suppose that would be prohibitively expensive.

  • Target stores are putting an individual, non gendered bathroom in every store. I agree with your assessment of the ideal. Lots of people have issues with multi stall/urinal bathrooms.

  • If you read your Bible, no arguments for any marriage hold up.
    Matthew 19:9-1
    1 Corinthians 7:1-2, and 7:7-9

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