Trump backing away from transgender bathroom lawsuit

The Justice Department withdrew a motion to keep Obama's school bathroom guidance intact, instead letting an injunction stand that blocked implementation of a rule favoring transgender students.

Susan Walsh/AP
Attorney General Jeff Sessions at one of his first meetings in the Justice Department, Thursday.

President Donald Trump's administration is stepping back from a request made by former President Barack Obama's administration in an ongoing lawsuit over bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools.

In a filing Friday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal government asked to withdraw a motion filed last year that asked a judge to scale back a temporary injunction blocking Obama's guidance on the issue.

The Department of Justice's filing, which came a day after Jeff Sessions was sworn in as Trump's attorney general, said the parties were "currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal."

Texas and 12 other states filed the lawsuit last year challenging the former president's guidance, which directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the directive nationwide in August. The Obama administration later requested that the hold only apply to the 13 suing states while it appealed the ruling. A hearing on the request was set for Tuesday, but the Friday court filing asked that the hearing be cancelled.

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said Saturday afternoon that the agency declined to comment beyond the filing. Calls to the Texas attorney general's office were not returned.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said they were "incredibly disappointed" by the filing on Friday.

"Our concern is that it's a very clear signal that at a minimum the Department of Justice — and possibly more broadly throughout the Trump administration — will not protect transgender students," she said.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor blocked the Obama administration order in August. The Obama administration had cited Title IX, a federal law guaranteeing equality in education. But the judge, in issuing a temporary injunction, said the Title IX "is not ambiguous" about sex being defined as "the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth."

The ruling, he said, was not about the policy issues of transgender rights, but about his conclusion that federal officials simply did not follow rules that required an opportunity for comment before such directives are issued.

In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court is set in late March to hear the case of a Virginia school board that wants to prevent a transgender teenager from using the boys' bathroom at a high school.

The Virginia case involves 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male. He was allowed to use the boys' restroom at his high school in 2014. But after complaints, the school board adopted a policy requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall restroom. A lower court ordered the school board to accommodate Grimm, but that order is on hold.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.