U.S. judge grants nationwide injunction to halt Obama transgender policy

Jonathan Ernst—Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference Aug. 4at the Pentagon in Arlington

AUSTIN, Texas — A U.S. judge granted a nationwide injunction sought by a group of 13 states led by Texas seeking to block Obama administration guidance that transgender public school students must be allowed to use bathrooms of their choice.Reed O’Connor, a judge for the Northern District of Texas, said in a decision late Sunday that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures for notice and comment in issuing the guidelines. He said the guidelines contradict with existing legislative and regulatory texts.O’Connor said the guidelines from the defendants, which included the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, were legislative and substantive.”Although Defendants have characterized the Guidelines as interpretive, post-guidance events and their actual legal effect prove that they are ‘compulsory in nature,'” he wrote.At a hearing on the injunction in Fort Worth on Aug. 12, lawyers for Texas said the guidelines usurp the authority of school districts nationwide. They said they were at risk of losing billions of dollars in federal funding for education if they did not comply.U.S. Department of Justice lawyers sought to dismiss the injunction, saying the federal guidelines issued in May were non-binding with no legal consequences.The North Carolina governor’s office praised the decision.”The federal court decision bolsters the efforts of Gov. [Pat] McCrory, along with 22 other states, to protect the privacy of families and children in our school bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities,” said communications director Josh Ellis. “We’re also pleased that a federal court has sided with Gov. McCrory’s position that the Obama administration has overstepped its authority by bypassing Congress and the courts.”The guidance issued by the Justice Department and Education Department said public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, as opposed to their birth gender, or face the loss of federal funds.Following milestone achievements in gay rights including same-sex marriage becoming legal nationwide in 2015, transgender rights have become an increasingly contentious issue in the United States. The use of public bathrooms has been a key element in the controversy.The administration’s directive enraged conservatives who say federal civil rights protections encompass biological sex, not gender identity.The other states in the Texas-led suit are Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi and Kentucky. Ten other states, including North Carolina, have also separately sued over the guidelines.