Judge: Transgender Bathroom Ruling Applies to All States

by | October 20, 2016

By Chuck Lindell

Clarifying an earlier ruling, a federal judge in Fort Worth said Wednesday that his injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing its school directive on transgender bathrooms applied to every state in the nation.

Lawyers for the federal government, seeking to limit the injunction to Texas and 12 other states that challenged the directive, had asked for the clarification to be issued before Thursday, when it faced a deadline to appeal the injunction.

That appeal is still expected.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor also clarified that his temporary injunction, issued Aug. 21, applied only to the federal directive that public schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room that conforms with their gender identity. It didn't otherwise affect the government's "core missions to combat discrimination based on race, national origin or disability," he said.

O'Connor, however, said he needed additional information to address three points of contention on his injunction:

  • Whether the injunction applies to investigations under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination in public facilities and public education, "particularly as it applies to workplaces where school teachers or school staff may or must use the same intimate facilities as students."
  • Whether the injunction also applies to rules set by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • Whether any part of the federal transgender guidelines can be reinstated if offending passages are removed.

The judge gave the Obama administration, which insists that federal officials had the legal authority to issue the transgender guidance, until Monday to address the remaining issues.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the 13-state coalition that challenged the transgender directive, has until Oct. 28 to submit a reply brief.

Paxton said the clarification affirms the principle that Congress, not the president, writes the nation's laws.

"The court's reaffirmation of a nationwide injunction should send a clear message to the president that Texas won't sit idly by as he continues to ignore the Constitution," Paxton said in a statement.

Chuck Smith, head of Equality Texas, said he hoped O'Connor's ruling will be overturned on appeal. In the meantime, he said, school districts are free to provide access to bathrooms and locker rooms that meet a student's gender identity, regardless of the status of the federal directive.

"Transgender children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and not be subject to bullying and harassment for being their authentic selves. It is the duty of school districts to protect every child," Smith said.

(c)2016 Austin American-Statesman, Texas