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Federal Judge in Texas Doubles Down on Transgender Discrimination by Refusing to Narrow Injunction

Today, HRC responded to a federal judge’s refusal to narrow his nationwide injunction on the enforcement of federal guidance regarding transgender students. In Texas v. United States, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor recently blocked the Department of Justice from enforcing the guidance that clarifies transgender students have a right to be free from discrimination in schools, including a right to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. In a decision late last night, Judge O’Connor denied a request to limit his injunction to the 13 states who brought suit against the administration.

“By doubling down on his decision to block the Department of Justice from enforcing this important guidance, Judge O’Connor is putting thousands of transgender students at even greater risk of marginalization, harassment, and discrimination,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “It’s important to note however that despite this judge’s decision, schools are not barred from following the federal guidance. School administrators still have a responsibility to ensure that the civil rights of all students are respected and that transgender students have access to facilities consistent with their gender identity. As lawsuits on the scope of Title IX proceed, we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognize that discrimination against transgender students is a form of sex discrimination.”

On May 13, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance because schools and districts requested clarification on their obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in education programs based on sex. Clarifying how schools can safeguard transgender students’ rights to privacy and safety, the guidance makes clear that transgender students have the right to be free from discrimination, including the ability to use gender-separated facilities (such as restrooms and locker rooms) that match their gender identity. The guidance follows similar policies in states and school districts across the country, including many that have been treating transgender students with dignity and respect for more than a decade.

In March of 2015, Judge O’Connor also sought to block Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights for legally married same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in United States v. Windsor (2013).