EXPERT VIEWS-Transgender rights under new Trump policy

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 24 February 2017 18:39 GMT

People chant outside of The Stonewall Inn during a protest against the Trump administration's move to rescind guidance allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice, in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Bria Webb

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"This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students"

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. President Donald Trump has revoked federal guidelines that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice, dealing what advocates say is a wrenching blow to LGBT rights.

The move reverses an initiative of former President Barack Obama, who instructed public schools last year to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity.

The Trump administration says the earlier guidance caused confusion and left open the way to legal challenges. It also says states and public schools should have the authority to make decisions without federal interference.

Here are some expert views on the issue:

RODDY FLYNN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL LGBT EQUALITY CAUCUS

"President Trump's decision to rescind this guidance is cruel. This president, who previously promised to maintain LGBT nondiscrimination protections, has turned his back on the transgender community and shown a willful disregard for the safety of transgender students everywhere."

REBECCA ISAACS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EQUALITY FEDERATION

"We stand with transgender students and their families in strong resistance to bullying, even when it comes from the White House.

"The nation's leading educators and child health experts agree that it is best for all students when transgender students are treated consistently as the gender that matches how they live every day."

JOSEPH MURRAY, ADMINISTRATOR, LGBTRUMP

"President Trump has done more to extend an olive branch to the LGBT community than any Republican president before him. But as President Trump is working to build broad-based coalition devoid of identity politics, LGBT foes are using red herrings, such as this bathroom battle, to thwart his efforts."

MARA KEISLING, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER EQUALITY

"This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school. It seems almost every day the President chooses a new group to scapegoat and attack.

"With a pen stroke, the Trump administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger."

RACHEL TIVEN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, LAMBDA LEGAL

"Trump's actions do not change the law itself - transgender students remain protected by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 - but abandoning the guidance intentionally creates confusion about what federal law requires. The law bars discrimination – the new administration invites it."

DR. DIANE HORVATH-COSPER, REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ADVOCACY FELLOW, PHYSICIANS FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

"Transgender children are often rejected by their family and peers, harassed, traumatized and abused, and are at a higher risk for depression and suicide. Discouraging or punishing children for expressing their true sense of identity threatens their health and well-being, and schools have a special responsibility to protect all young people, regardless of gender identity or expression." KEN PAXTON, ATTORNEY GENERAL, TEXAS

"Our fight over the bathroom directive has always been about former President Obama's attempt to bypass Congress and rewrite the laws to fit his political agenda for radical social change. The Obama administration's directive on bathrooms unlawfully invaded areas that are left to state discretion under the Tenth Amendment. School policy should center on the safety, privacy and dignity of its students, not the whims federal of bureaucrats."

SHANNON GILREATH, PROFESSOR OF LAW AND PROFESSOR OF WOMEN'S, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY STUDIES, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY

"I think the recision is regrettable primarily because there is no policy to take its place. However, the Obama administration policy was also misguided. It simply amounted to more gender policing: boys go here; girls go here. The only difference from the status quo was that the definitions of girl and boy were in flux.

"I want a policy that requires more gender neutral, single-occupancy restrooms and changing facilities. That's the only policy that will ensure that gay youth have an escape from the bullying that is all too frequent in gender-segregated spaces.

TERRY O'NEILL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN "Donald Trump's decision to discriminate against transgender students is a shameful and unconstitutional attack on civil rights and human decency. Title IX is clear - the federal law prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs. Donald Trump, (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions and (U.S. Secretary of Education) Betsy DeVos are choosing to ignore Title IX in order to please their religious conservative base."

JAMES ESSEKS, DIRECTOR, LESBIAN GAY BISEXUAL TRANSGENDER & HIV PROJECT, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION

"Revoking the guidance shows that the president's promise to protect LGBT rights was just empty rhetoric. But the bottom line is that this does not undo legal protections for trans students, and school districts can and must continue to protect them and all students from discrimination. School districts that recognize that should continue doing the right thing; for the rest, we'll see them in court."

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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