September 5th, 2016
When our grandchildren look back on the year 2016 in their history classes, they may very well find it under a chapter titled something like “2016 Controversies: A Year of Elections, Olympics, and Bathroom-Related Lawsuits.” Although the first two subjects only really demand our undivided attention every four years, the ongoing disagreements over bathroom laws are likely to continue long after Brazil closes the curtain on the Olympic Games and the United States has a new president.
As gender identity and fluidity becomes an increasingly common national conversation, we have seen opinions both in support of and against transgender people. North Carolina, for example, has been in the news quite a bit lately for its controversial legislation requiring that individuals use bathrooms in accordance with the gender identified on their birth certificates. Even with economic loss, the state shows no sign of reigning in discriminatory legislation.
President Obama Pushes for Equality in Education
Despite state action like that seen in North Carolina, earlier this year, President Obama issued direction requiring public schools to accommodate transgender students by allowing them to use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity rather than what is provided on their birth certificates. Recently, we posted a blog article discussing the importance of emotional support for school-age LGBT teens, you can read it here.
The guidance provided by the President requires that a school treat transgender students appropriately as soon as a parent or guardian advises the school of the child’s gender identity. Despite public support of the guidance from equality groups, you probably will not be surprised to hear that not everyone is pleased with the new requirements.
Federal Judge Declares Obama Administration Cannot Issue Guidelines Allowing Transgender Students Equal Access to School Bathrooms
In August, a Texas federal judge declared that the Obama administration is prohibited from creating and enforcing the new guidelines that would allow transgender students to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity. The judge’s order stems from a lawsuit brought by more than a dozen state officials, including Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and more.
The lawsuit requested, and the judge granted, injunctive relief against the guidelines. In ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the judge stated that the President overstepped his authority by effectively altering preexisting laws including Title IX of federal education laws, which ironically prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex.
Legal Disputes Involving Transgender Bathroom Laws are Likely to Stick Around
The Justice Department responded to the Texas Judge’s ruling by stating that since plaintiffs showed no evidence that they were going to suffer imminent harm, the matter was not ripe for litigation. Unfortunately, transgender bathroom rights remain extremely polarizing and as such, it is unlikely that we have seen the last of these legal disputes. For information going forward, be sure to check with us at Universal Life Church. We have been dedicated to analyzing laws and issues affecting your civil rights for over 50 years, and we do not intend to stop now.
photo courtesy of sarahmirk