Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2017 / 12:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday night, the Trump administration withdrew an Obama-era guidance that had directed schools to allow students to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender they currently identify with, not the facilities of their birth or biological sex. The guidance had prompted criticism on the grounds of safety and privacy.
In dropping it, the Trump administration said the policy had created too much confusion and the issue should be left up to the states. The move was applauded by Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
“While we must be sensitive to the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of people who identify as transgender, that is not a reason to ignore the dignity, privacy, and safety concerns of everyone else,” Anderson wrote in the Daily Signal. “Unfortunately, the Obama-era policies were entirely one-sided. They favored the concerns of people who identify as transgender while entirely discounting the concerns of others.”
The decision also drew praise from Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gary McCaleb. “Student privacy in those facilities must be protected, and by restoring the right understanding of Title IX, our nation also restores common sense: School officials should be free to protect their student’s privacy, safety, and dignity,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration had announced that it would stop fighting to defend the policy in court. Back in August, the Northern District of Texas federal court placed an injunction on the policy, halting it from going into effect. In response to the injunction, the Obama administration appealed its case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal was dropped Feb. 10.
The guidance in question was an interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination “on the basis of sex” within “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In its interpretation, the Obama administration said the Title IX anti-discrimination protections include those for gender identity, meaning that transgender students had to have access to facilities of the gender with which they identified, like single-sex locker rooms and bathrooms.
Leading U.S. bishops had expressed serious concerns with the guidance, saying that it “contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created’.”
“Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect,” said Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, chairs of the committees on youth and Catholic education, respectively. “All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of the other young students and parents. The federal regulatory guidance issued on May 13 does not even attempt to achieve this balance.”
The August injunction by the Texas district court came weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court had halted from going into effect a Fourth Circuit Court ruling that a transgender student had to be able to access the public school bathroom of their choice. The Court will still hear that case of Gavin Grimm this term.