In an effort to pander to religious conservatives who desperately want to make America straight and cisgender again, President Trump's administration issued a directive late Wednesday, as they had been expected to do, reversing President Obama's earlier directive with regard to allowing transgender students to use the restrooms of their choice. As the New York Times reports, unlikely trans ally Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education, was actually against the idea and fought to avoid signing off on it, but she was strong-armed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, apparently, the president himself, into doing so. This was not an executive order, per se, but was actually a letter issued to school districts nationwide that needs both DeVos's signature, and that of Sessions, repealing Obama's order of last May.
The new directive sets up the Trump Administration for yet another drag-out fight with the ACLU, not to mention every (typically) blue state in the nation, in a contentious and ongoing legal battle over the rights of transgender people not to mention states' rights, since many states in the nation have already passed their own laws protecting trans students, and trans people in general.
Also, as the Times points out, the move to bend to Sessions and the religious right appears counter to Trump's own personal beliefs, whatever those may be, and some statements he's made previously on the campaign trail.
As the Chronicle explains, the Obama directive cited its own interpretation of Title IX, which prohibits schools that receive federal money from discriminating based on a student’s sex, adding that this should now include a student’s transgender status.
Court cases continue to be heard over this issue, and the Obama directive was not legally binding, and now the new directive signed by Sessions and DeVos contends that Obama's earlier letter did not "contain extensive legal analysis or explain how the position is consistent with the express language of Title IX, nor did [it] undergo any formal public process," thus, "This interpretation has given rise to significant litigation regarding school restrooms and locker rooms.”
In a further caveat, perhaps requested as a compromise by DeVos who has said she opposes bullying, the letter reads, paradoxically, “Please note that the withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying or harassment.”
DeVos issued her own statement saying, "This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find and in many cases have found solutions that protect all students."
As Fox News reports, Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that there was any pushback from DeVos except over wording.
Meanwhile, protesters and trans advocates have been gathering outside the White House this evening, as DCist reported.
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, issued a statement saying, "It’s shameful and cruel that government and officials are using their power to target transgender youth, who are simply trying to go to school and live their lives."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement about the new directive saying:
“No student should face discrimination at school because of who they are. Transgender students have the same right to a safe environment at school and in their community as everyone else. Withdrawing the historic guidance from the Obama Administration to protect transgender students is a cruel blow to an already vulnerable group of young people.
“This move shows that President Trump cannot be trusted to defend the rights of LGBT Americans. This is not a state issue. This is an issue of equality for all. The Administration’s wanton disregard of protecting the civil rights of the LGBT community is harmful to our communities and our schools.
“Democrats will keep demanding that the Trump Administration advocate for all Americans. Transgender students and all students are protected by the Constitution and Title IX, regardless of this Administration’s callous position. House Democrats will never stop confronting bigotry and discrimination wherever it is practiced, and will never stop fighting for LGBT equality."
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a staunch advocate for LGBT rights throughout his career, issued his own tweets of protest and indignation, including one in direct response to VP Mike Pence.
BREAKING: Trump admin makes life more difficult for one of the most vulnerable groups of ppl, citing their desire to further ostracize them. https://t.co/7uQmHCAJZQ— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 23, 2017
With boundless faith in PEOPLE. Embracing people of all backgrounds & religions builds commonality & compassion across our nation & world. https://t.co/gauaxbXhuM— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 23, 2017