LGBT groups urge Trump administration to keep Obama transgender policy

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By Daniel Trotta

<span class="articleLocation”>Alarmed at the U.S. Justice Department’s retreat
from a full defense of transgender rights, four advocacy groups
have urged the Trump administration to maintain Obama era
guidance to public schools on protecting transgender students.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
rights sent a letter dated Monday to Attorney General Jeff
Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urging them to
preserve guidance sent to public schools last year.

That guidance urged schools to allow transgender students to
use bathrooms matching their gender identity and issued other
directives on bullying and harassment.

“Each of these guidance documents is based on years of
careful research to accurately reflect a substantial body of
case law and proven best practices from schools across the
country,” the letter said.

President Donald Trump has spoken in favor of LGBT rights
and in January the White House vowed to defend LGBT workplace
protections issued under former President Barack Obama.

But LGBT advocates say Sessions and DeVos are more
conservative and question their commitment to transgender
rights. Asked to comment, a Justice Department spokesman would
only say the department received the letter and will review it.

Texas filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Obama guidance
and was joined by 12 other states. They said the federal
government overreached in trying to force social policy on them
and threatening to cut off federal funds to states that failed
to comply.

A U.S. district judge sided with the states and blocked the
directives. The Justice and Education departments under Obama
appealed.

On Friday, shortly after Sessions was sworn in, the Justice
Department withdrew a motion in defense of the guidance,
acceding to the lower court judge’s injunction to block it
nationwide.

“It’s really upsetting to see that the first thing they
chose to do, late on a Friday night, was take a step back from
fighting to defend students from harm,” said one of the
signatories, Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, a group
advocating for LGBT students.

The letter was also signed by the leaders of the National
Center for Transgender Equality, Human Rights Campaign and the
National Women’s Law Center.

Major issues of how schools must deal with transgender
students could be settled in a case due to be argued before the
U.S. Supreme Court in March.

The case pits a Virginia school district against a
transgender boy fighting for his right to use the boys’ room at
his high school.



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