In a move that will surprise few and depress many, Attorney General Jeff Sessions kicked off his tenure by declining to defend the rights of transgender students to safely attend public schools.
Back in August of 2016, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Texas Federal District Court issued an injunction against the Obama administration’s guidelines for the treatment of transgender students in public schools.
As quoted from the Department of Justice website, these Obama-era guidelines stated that schools had an obligation to:
- Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status or gender transition
- Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex
- Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity
- Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
In short, the guidance would require transgender students to be treated with the same human decency as their peers.
Under Obama, the Department of Justice had been appealing the injunction against these guidelines. Firstly, they argued that the injunction should only apply to the twelve states, including Texas, which had filed a lawsuit against the guidance in the first place. That way, the guidance would still stand for the other 38 states. A hearing on this matter, including oral arguments, was scheduled for Tuesday, February 14, but the Justice Department and the twelve states filed a joint motion to cancel the hearing. “The parties are currently considering how to best proceed in this appeal,” it read.
Since the injunction was already in place, this move has no immediate policy effect, but it signals that Jeff Sessions is exactly what his opponents accused him of being. “Sessions will not be an advocate for the voiceless and vulnerable,” said Senator Kamala Harris. “I have no confidence that Senator Sessions will be an independent attorney general and not an arm of the White House,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. And Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed to his “career [that] is defined by hostility to civil rights, immigrants and the rule of law.”
So far, so accurate.
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