Texas Judge Blocks Feds From Ensuring Transgender-Friendly Schools Across the Country

Texas Judge Blocks Feds From Ensuring Transgender-Friendly Schools Across the Country

A federal judge in Texas might have cemented transgender discrimination in public schools across the country.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor seemed to expand (or at least "clarify") a ruling earlier this summer that blocked the Obama Administration from forcing public schools to abide by new rules meant to end discrimination against transgender students – basically, by letting students use whatever bathroom corresponds with their gender identity. After the judge in August issued and injunction blocking the federal attempt to ensure trans-friendly public schools, it looked like that ruling might only apply to Texas and the dozen other states that joined Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit to make sure schools have the right to discriminate against trans students. 

Still, the issue of whether the Texas-led lawsuit kept the feds from enforcing the policy in other states appeared to be somewhat open to interpretation. So U.S. Department of Justice lawyers asked O'Connor to clarify, and threatened to appeal if he wouldn't. 

On Tuesday, O'Connor happily clarified – just not in the direction that DOJ lawyers had hoped.

“A nationwide injunction is necessary because the alleged violation extends nationwide," the judge wrote. If the Obama administration was going to push him, O'Connor demonstrated he'd make the whole country pay for it. 

Naturally, Paxton couldn’t be more pleased.

"The court’s reaffirmation of a nationwide injunction should send a clear message to the president that Texas won’t sit idly by as he continues to ignore the Constitution,” he said in a statement. “The president cannot rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people and then threaten to take away funding from schools to force them to fall in line."

The Obama administration had threatened to pull Title IX funding from any state that fails to comply with the rule. For Texas, that could be up to $5.9 billion a year. The state has argued – and the judge on the case seems to agree – the guidelines "hold a gun to the head" of local school districts. 

While the case – and O'Connor's ruling and his "clarification" – doesn't necessarily block individual school districts from implementing whatever rules they want around bathroom access, it does mean that across the country, the feds can't do much to ensure districts aren't discriminating against their transgender students. 

"Transgender children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and not be subject to bullying and harassment for being their authentic selves," said Chuck Smith, CEO of the statewide LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas. "It is the duty of school districts to protect every child."


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