Friday, May 13, 2016

Obama Administration to Issue Sweeping Transgender Rights Directive

North Carolina Republicans - and the cowards on the Gloucester County, Virginia school board - seemingly had no idea that by pandering to Christofascists and adopting anti-LGBT policies would be setting the stage for a major show down on LGBT civil rights and trandgender rights in particular. Tellingly, the situation is now helping to underscore  (i) how willingly the "godly folks" lie to justify their bigotry, and (ii) that all the blather about "religious liberty" boils down to wanting a license to abuse and stigmatize those the falsely pious don't like.  Today, the Justice Department's Division for Civil Rights will be sending a letter to every school division indicating what the divisions must do in order to avoid running afoul of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.  It goes without saying that the "godly folks" and their political whores in the GOP are howling.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the development:
The Obama administration on Friday will direct schools across the nation to provide transgender students with access to suitable facilities — including bathrooms and locker rooms — that match their chosen gender identity.
The move, which will affect all public schools and most colleges and universities that receive federal funds, plunges the administration even further into the country’s ongoing contentious debate over transgender rights.
The directive comes from two top administration officials: Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It will put state and local officials and higher-education institutions on notice that they risk losing federal education aid if they limit students to areas or teams based on their gender assigned at birth.
The action comes just days after the Justice Department and the state of North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits over a new law requiring individuals in that state to use bathrooms based on their birth gender.
Citing Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, the two officials warn that the obligation “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns.
“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students,” reads the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Elizabeth Schultz, an outspoken conservative on the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia, said the guidance could infringe on some students’ religious convictions. In May of last year, Schultz voted against a move, which ultimately passed, to expand nondiscrimination protections in the district to transgender students. 
For the most part, state and local officials have reversed course when threatened with the loss of federal funds over their treatment of transgender students. In 2013, the Education Department reached a settlement with the school district of Arcadia in California, on a dispute over whether the district violated Title IX by requiring a student who transitioned to being male to change clothes and use the bathroom in the nurse’s office.
On Thursday night, Gavin Grimm, the transgender student in Gloucester County, Va., who won the right to challenge his school, welcomed the administration’s action.
“I am so happy that with this new guidance, transgender students across the country have a new tool to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect at school,” said Grimm, a client of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This guidance would have made a big difference in my life, and I’m happy that kids will be free to use the bathroom that reflects who they are.”
The 4th Circuit’s ruling, along with the threat of new lawsuits from groups such as the ACLU and the Transgender Law Center, have already influenced other schools across the country.

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