The Obama administration was barred by a judge from enforcing a directive that U.S. public schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity.
A federal judge in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday sided with Texas and 12 other states that argued the administration’s policy usurps local control and threatens students’ safety and privacy.
The use of public bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender people has become the latest front in civil rights struggles between social conservatives and the administration following battles over same-sex marriage and military service by openly gay members of the armed forces in which President Barack Obama has sided with gay-rights advocates.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor comes after the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug 3 temporarily blocked an order that would let a transgender student use the boys’ bathrooms during his senior year at a Virginia high school.
In that case, the justices granted a request from the Gloucester County school board, which said the lower court order would have caused “severe disruption” when school started in September and likely prompted parents to transfer their children to other institutions. The district said boys’ restrooms were reserved for students who were “biological” males.
In the Texas case, the judge said his ruling was based on the administration failing to follow rule-making procedures and not underlying issues of students’ rights.
“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” O’Connor said. “The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not, however, the subject of this order.”
The U.S. Department of Education published guidelines in May instructing schools to not discriminate on the basis of gender identity. The directive was issued days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a state law requiring residents to use public restrooms matching their gender at birth.
O’Connor, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush and confirmed for the bench in 2007, last year put on hold a federal rule granting Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to same-sex couples after Texas filed a lawsuit. Three months after his order, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.
The case is State of Texas v U.S.A., 7:16-cv-00054, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Wichita Falls).
This article was written by Tom Korosec from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.