The Obama administration will send a letter to every public school district in the country Friday warning them that they must allow students to use whatever bathroom and locker room corresponds to their stated gender identity, or face a federal lawsuit.
The decree, sent jointly by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, comes just a few days after North Carolina and the federal government sued each other over the state’s recent law governing bathroom use in public buildings. It won’t be a new federal law, but will instead reflect the Obama administration’s interpretation of existing federal anti-discrimination law.
In particular, the decree is based on Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. While the drafters of the law may not have known it at the time, the Obama administration’s position is that the law covers discrimination based on gender identity as well as physical sex.
“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,” the letter says, according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy.
Currently, federal courts have not conclusively settled whether, and to what degree, sex discrimination laws cover matters of gender identity as opposed to physical sex. But the Obama administration appears optimistic that an aggressive approach will succeed, especially after an April court ruling favored a transgender Virginia girls who sued for the right to use a boys’ bathroom.
The letter says that schools must immediately respect a student’s new gender identity as soon as it is declared by their parent or guardian. Schools are not allowed to require that a student provide a medical diagnosis to justify the change, and they also cannot require a student to legally change their gender.
To assist schools in implementing the new policy and help those made uncomfortable by it, the letter includes a 25-page document of “emerging practices,” with suggestions such as erecting privacy curtains in locker rooms for those who need extra privacy.
Obama’s new order will without a doubt enrage many Republicans who have argued that transgender bathroom policies will allow perverted men to prey upon women in bathrooms and locker rooms. A few such incidents have already occurred.
In February, for instance, a Seattle man used the city’s now transgender bathroom ordinance to enter a women’s locker room and begin stripping while young girls were using it. When confronted, he said the law gave him the right to be there, and he was never identified or arrested.
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