HEADLINE

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Trump rescinds transgender bathroom rules from Obama era



Transgender activists and supporters protest potential changes by the Trump administration in federal guidelines issued to public schools in defense of transgender student rights, near the White House
Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAbout 200 demonstrators gathered near the White House to protest against Mr Trump's measure
Donald Trump's government has revoked guidance to US public schools that allowed transgender students to use toilets matching their gender identity.
The guidance, issued by his predecessor Barack Obama, had been hailed by as a victory for transgender rights.
But critics said it threatened other students' privacy and safety, and should be decided at state level.
Mr Obama's directive had sparked a backlash across the country, with legal challenges from 13 states.
The latest change will have no immediate impact, because Mr Obama's directive has already been temporarily blocked by a judge in Texas since August.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration sent a letter to US schools outlining the change, saying the previous measure had caused confusion.
It had also sparked lawsuits and debate over how it should work in practice, the letter from the Justice and Education departments said.
Last May, Mr Obama's justice and education departments instructed public schools to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom corresponded to their gender identity.
Though not legally binding, Mr Obama's order warned schools they could lose funding if they did not follow the new guidance.
Media captionWhy the N Carolina bill is so controversial
The Obama administration's guidance was based on its interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Mr Obama argued that protection extended to gender identity.
This file photo taken on May 4, 2016 shows signs posted outside the Santee High School's gender neutral restrooms at their campus in Los Angeles, California.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSome US schools have already introduced gender neutral bathrooms or allowed students to choose
During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump said transgender students should be allowed to use whichever bathroom "they feel is appropriate".
But he reversed his stance after facing Republican criticism.
On Wednesday, conservative activists praised Mr Trump's order, saying it protected student rights to privacy.
"Our daughters should never be forced to share private, intimate spaces with male classmates, even if those young men are struggling with these issues," said Vicki Wilson, a member of Students and Parents for Privacy.
"It violates their right to privacy and harms their dignity."
Media caption'My heart is a girl heart'
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, also praised the move.
"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," he said.
However, transgender activists have argued that gender identity is a civil rights issue that should be enforced at a federal level, not left to individual states.
Tweet from writer Janet Mock reads: I was a trans student. I know how vital it is to feel safe, welcomed & affirmed. Equal access enabled me to attend, stay & thrive in school.Image copyrightTWITTER
Image captionWriter Janet Mock
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the move a major setback for trans rights.
"By rescinding these protections, the Trump administration is compromising the safety and security of some of our most vulnerable children," she said.
"Reversing this guidance tells trans kids that it's OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans."
Some celebrities also criticised the decision on social media, with TV presenter Ellen DeGenere tweeting: "This isn't about politics. It's about human rights."
Tweet from singer Jackie Evancho reads: I am obviously disappointed in the @POTUS decision to send the #transgender bathroom issue to the states to decide.Image copyrightTWITTER
Image captionSinger Jackie Evancho, whose sister is transgender, had performed the national anthem at Mr Trump's inauguration
Tweet from singer Katy Perry reads: Trans friend, if you are struggling tonight, please reach out to @TrevorProject and @Translifeline. Equality for all! #ISTANDWITHGAVINImage copyrightTWITTER
Image captionSinger Katy Perry
Tweet from TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres reads: Just seeing the news about removing laws protecting trans people. This isn't about politics. It's about human rights, and it's not okay.Image copyrightTWITTER
Image captionTV presenter Ellen DeGeneres
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