By Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
This past week, the Departments of Education and Justice rescinded an executive order from the Obama administration giving protections to transgender students, allowing them to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
The new governmental order removes directing federal employees, federal programs, or schools receiving federal aid from allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. It was implemented under President Obama as an extension of an already pre-existing law.
The law that the executive order was broadening was the Title IX anti-discrimination law, a federal statute that prevented discrimination or harassment in schools on the basis of sex.
The law applies to any school receiving federal assistance, or any program that is under federal mandate.
The original letter issued by the Obama administration was co-authored by the Departments of Justice and Education, with both having joint jurisdiction over this matter.
With regards to transgender policy, it says “the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity.”
Obama had issued an executive order that applied the Title IX law to transgender policy as well, allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of that align with their gender identity.
He, however, didn’t add it to the existing law, facing intense opposition from Congress due to partisan politics.
Massachusetts, amongst other states, have passed additional state legislation in order to prevent discrimination against the transgender. community However, since January, six trans people have been murdered, and there has been a rise in hate crimes, which also saw an increase in murders of trans people.
The new decision to rescind the executive order from Obama was pioneered by newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believed that the interpretation of the law by Obama was in violation of it’s legal background, and was an overreach of power by the federal government.
In order to rescind the executive order, Sessions had to get the agreement of DeVos, since it fell under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and Education.
However, DeVos was hesitant to sign off on this, citing potential discrimination against transgender students.
Sessions appealed to the White House and Trump ordered DeVos to sign off on the order and the guidance repeal.
DeVos capitulated, fearing losing her position as Secretary of Education. Sessions and DeVos then co-authored the new directive for their departments rescinding the protection for transgender students.
This act has been met with widespread protests, but also praise from many conservatives and Trump supporters. The reason Sessions was so eager to put pressure on DeVos was to avoid lengthy litigation that was being crafted by organizations like the ACLU.
Gavin Grimm, a transgender man, is suing his school board in order to win the right to use the men’s bathroom.
It is one of the first cases since the new administration’s inauguration to directly influence the rights of transgenders, and will most likely become a battleground for transgender rights.
Dr. Juli Parker, the director for the Center of the Women and Gender and Sexuality Studies remarked that “it [the new guidance] will not affect us, because Massachusetts is one of 16 states that have protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, but also transgender people.”
About the conditions in other states, Dr. Parker remarked that states with protection laws could possibly see an influx of transgender people, as they faced harassment and discrimination in states that remove their protections.
“The Center wants transgender students to note we are here for them and regardless of any problems we want to know about it. We are working to make things better for them.”
The executive order has gone into effect immediately because it is not a law and does not require Congressional approval, in the thirty-four states that don’t have already pre-existing rules and legislation.