Opponents of the Obama administration’s sweeping transgender directive praised a federal judge’s order blocking enforcement of the controversial action that instructed schools to permit students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction Aug. 21 against the May guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice. Officials of the two departments told public school districts, as well as colleges and universities, to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their choosing. The instruction was not legally binding, but it implied noncompliance could result in the loss of federal aid.
In his order, O’Connor said the temporary block in a challenge brought by Texas and officials of 12 other states should apply throughout the country.
Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, applauded the decision, saying in a written statement the president “is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform. That cannot be allowed to continue …”
Matt Sharp, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said in written comments, “Schools have a duty to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of all students, and this order certainly helps them in fulfilling that duty. The Obama administration cannot unilaterally disregard and redefine federal law to accomplish its political agenda of forcing girls to share locker rooms and showers with boys.”
Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation described the judge’s action as “great news out of Texas.”
“This judgment stops the Administration’s ideologically driven misinterpretation of the law in its tracks and protects the safety and privacy of our children in school showers, lockers, and bathrooms,” said Severino, director of Heritage’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.
Lambda Legal and four other organizations advocating for gay and transgender rights criticized O’Connor’s order, saying in a joint statement, “A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination. This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students.”
In his 38-page opinion, O’Connor said the Obama administration’s directive failed on two counts: It ignored the clear meaning of the Title IX education ban on sex discrimination and failed to abide by the federal requirement of a public notice and comment period.
In its promotion of transgender rights in schools, the Obama administration has interpreted the Title IX education law’s prohibition on sex discrimination to protect transgender individuals as well.
A regulation implementing Title IX “is not ambiguous” regarding what it covers, O’Connor said. “It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex as used in [the regulation] when it was enacted by [the Department of Education] following passage of Title IX meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.
“Additionally, it cannot reasonably be disputed that [the Department of Education] complied with Congressional intent when drawing the distinctions in [the regulation] based on the biological differences between male and female students.”
O’Connor’s order is at least the second this month to block an action requiring schools to allow students to use the restrooms of their gender identity rather than their biological sex.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Aug. 3 it had put on hold a June ruling by a federal court ordering the Gloucester County (Va.) School Board to permit a biological female to use the male restroom while a case is settled in court. If the high court refuses to review the lower court opinion in the case, the hold will end immediately. If the justices accept the appeal, the stay will remain in force until they issue a ruling.
Messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
The resolution also said, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE –Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)