WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Obama administration is issuing a directive mandating that public schools allow self-described transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond to their assumed gender identity.
In a joint letter prepared by the Justice Department and the Department of Education sent to all public school districts Friday, the administration lays out guidelines for the purpose of ensuring "transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment."
"A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so," reads a portion of the letter. It continues:
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 to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.
The guidelines also include a 25-page attachment outlining various practices employed by schools across the country to accommodate self-described transgender students.
"There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex," maintains Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "This guidance gives administrators, teachers and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies."
"No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus," asserts John B. King, Jr., secretary of the Department of Education. "We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence."
The move comes as the Obama administration and North Carolina are embroiled in dual lawsuits over the state's controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), which requires self-described transgender individuals to use the public restroom that corresponds with their true gender. The Department of Justice argues such legislation, labeled "mean spirited" by the White House, is in violation of Title IX, which forbids discrimination based on sex in educational institutions, and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination.
"The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student's gender identity as the student's sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX," the Obama administration stated in a press conference Thursday. Friday's guidelines additionally address privacy rights, sex-segregated athletics and educational records.
While no court has ruled the government's sex discrimination laws apply to gender identity, and the letter itself does not have the force of law, it is believed those schools who do not conform to the newly announced interpretation of the law may be subjected to lawsuits and loss of federal funding, similar to the lawsuit leveled against North Carolina.
LGBT activist organizations are already praising the action, describing it as validating so-called transgender rights. "These groundbreaking guidelines not only underscore the Obama administration's position that discriminating against transgender students is flat-out against the law, but they provide public school districts with needed and specific guidance guaranteeing that transgender students should be using facilities consistent with their gender identity," remarked Chad Griffin, president of LGBT political lobbying organization Human Rights Campaign.
Griffin went on to describe the announcement as a "truly significant moment" for both transgender individuals and "all young people."
The move has additionally been met with much criticism, with Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick calling the letter "blackmail."
"This goes against the values of so many people," he asserted. "This has everything to do with keeping the federal government out of local issues." In response to the threats from the federal government, Patrick retorted that the Obama administration can keep their "30 pieces of silver."
Republican senator John Cornyn of Texas called the federal overreach "unwelcome" and told the president to not "intervene in state and local affairs" and instead "focus on his job."