Obama Administration Affirms Rights for Transgender Students

May 12, 2016 • 10:57 pm
Letter from DOJ and DOE caps week of historic progress in fight for transgender equality

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is capping a week of momentum for transgender equality with a letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) directing all public schools across the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The letter comes as the administration increasingly vocalizes its position that Title VII and Title IX protections extend to transgender Americans.

The New York Times first reported the letter, quoting it as saying that under federal law schools must “ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns…As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

“Federal officials are continuing to send a clear message to transgender youth that they have their backs, and that is an incredibly important and powerful message – particularly right now,” said Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans Chief Program Officer and director of the Transgender Freedom Project. “Lawmakers in states like North Carolina have singled out transgender people simply for being who they are. Time and again we’ve seen lawmakers push harmful, discriminatory bills without any regard for the human lives they impact. It’s refreshing that federal officials are committed to recognizing, respecting and protecting the transgender community – particularly during this volatile time when so many state leaders are doing exactly the opposite.”

Earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that DOJ was filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over HB 2. In her remarks, Attorney General Lynch noted: “Instead of turning away from our neighbors, friends and colleagues, let us instead learn from our history…state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good and never works in hindsight.”

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a Virginia school board’s move to ban a transgender student from using public restrooms that match his gender identity violated Title IX. The Fourth Circuit also covers North Carolina.

Earlier today, lawmakers in the Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly to advance a bill that would ensure explicit protections for transgender people in public places statewide, including public restrooms. That bill now heads to the Massachusetts House for a vote.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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