Judge’s Decision to Block Federal Guidance on Transgender Students Puts Thousands at Risk

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, responded to a federal judge’s decision to issue an injunction on guidance provided to school districts by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice regarding the civil rights of transgender students. In Texas v. United States, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked the Department of Justice from enforcing the guidance that clarifies transgender students have a right to be free from discrimination in schools, including a right to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“Judge O’Connor’s decision to bar the Department of Justice from enforcing this important guidance puts thousands of transgender students at even greater risk of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination as they return to school this fall,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “All students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be able to learn in an environment free from discrimination. Despite this judge’s decision, schools are not barred from following the federal guidance, and school administrators still have a responsibility to ensure that the civil rights of all students are respected and that transgender students have access to facilities consistent with their gender identity. As lawsuits on the scope of Title IX proceed, we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognize that discrimination against transgender students is a form of sex discrimination.”

On May 13, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance because schools and districts requested clarification on their obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in education programs based on sex. Clarifying how schools can safeguard transgender students’ rights to privacy and safety, the guidance makes clear that transgender students have the right to be free from discrimination, including the ability to use gender-separated facilities (such as restrooms and locker rooms) that match their gender identity. The guidance follows similar policies in states and school districts across the country, including many that have been treating transgender students with dignity and respect for more than a decade.

In March of 2015, Judge O’Connor also sought to block Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights for legally married same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court of the United States' decision in United States v. Windsor (2013).

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.

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