WASHINGTON (BP) — A letter is imminent from the Trump administration advising schools they are no longer encouraged to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their perceived gender identity, the Washington Post reported Feb. 21.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education are expected to issue a letter today (Feb. 22) to schools across the nation reversing federal guidelines issued under the Obama administration, the Post said, based on a two-page draft of the letter the newspaper said it has obtained.
While the Obama administration’s May 2016 directive was nonbinding, it implied that noncompliant schools might lose federal aid. After many states complained, a federal judge put a hold on the 2016 directive in August, but the issue had already made it to the court system.
The Trump letter as drafted promises “to withdraw and rescind the above-referenced guidance documents in order to further consider the legal issues involved,” according to the Post. The letter is described as citing “the significant litigation” that the Obama directive inspired, and noting school officials and the public had “struggled to understand and apply the statements of [the Obama] policy.”
Southern Baptists including ethicist Russell Moore had opposed Obama’s directive.
“The (Obama) White House’s directive is an example of overreach, one that goes far beyond protecting persons from discrimination,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has said. “Children should never be used as pawns of the state in a culture war. My prayer is that this directive would be overturned, and that the federal government would cease its attack on conscience and communities.”
The Trump administration had not announced the issuance of the letter when Baptist Press published today’s article, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer acknowledged in a Feb. 21 press briefing that the Education and Justice departments were addressing the issue.
“Right now that’s an issue that the Department of Justice [DOJ] and the Department of Education are addressing,” Spicer said, according to the press briefing transcript at whitehouse.gov. “I would tell you that — and I think that there will be further guidance coming from DOJ in particular with respect to not just the executive order, but also the case that’s in front of the Supreme Court.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled on March 28 to hear a case from the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia challenging a lower court ruling allowing transgender teen Gavin Grimm to use the boy’s bathroom at school. Grimm, a biological female, identifies as male.
The Trump administration considers under the purview of the states the issue of transgender bathroom use, Spicer said.
“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” Spicer said. “So while there will be further guidance coming out on this, I think that all you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time — that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in; this is a states’ rights issue.”
In North Carolina, the legislature has passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act requiring individuals in government buildings to use the restrooms of the sex on their birth certificates rather than of their gender identity.
A similar bill was introduced in Texas in January requiring government buildings to designate bathroom use based on biological gender. At least 13 other states have filed similar bills, World News reported Feb. 20.