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Judge In Texas Blocks White House Guidance On Transgender Bathroom Use


A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Obama administration's public schools directive for transgender students. The guidelines allow students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

But U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth sided with Texas and 12 other states that sued the administration. The judge also warned his injunction would not be the final word. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Judge Reed O'Connor's injunction turned on definitions of the Title IX statute which prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. When issuing its directive in May, the Obama administration interpreted the word sex to include transgender students. But O'Connor rejected that analysis, writing, it cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex, when it was enacted, meant the biological differences between male and female at their birth.

Nevertheless, the judge acknowledged that important civil rights issues were at stake. This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of student rights and that of personal privacy. The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not the subject of this order.

Michael Sullivan is the president of Empower Texans, a conservative advocacy organization which opposes the government's transgender directive.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: This ruling demonstrates that process matters, that no matter how sincerely held someone has as a view, you can't just start issuing edicts in our system of government.

GOODWYN: And Sullivan agrees with the federal judge that the Obama guidelines go beyond what a president is allowed to do.

SULLIVAN: This is legislation. This is not a president utilizing his authority to interpret laws. There's nothing on the books that one could use this as a basis for interpreting a law to promulgate regulations.

GOODWYN: Transgender rights advocates were disappointed but not devastated by the temporary injunction. Chuck Smith is the CEO of Equality Texas, which fights for LGBTQ rights.

CHUCK SMITH: The injunction does not change the law. And significantly for school districts operating in Texas, the injunction does not have any impact upon any of the districts that already have policies in place that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

GOODWYN: School districts in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth all have written policies that accommodate transgender students. San Antonio and Austin don't have written policies but apparently intend to accommodate transgender students on a case-by-case basis.

Other Texas communities, however, say they will insist that transgender students use the bathroom that correlates to their birth gender. Smith of equality Texas says the fight endures.

SMITH: We will continue to work with parents of transgender kids, most of whom had no intention of being public advocates on this issue but are stepping forward now because their children are being targeted. And these are actions that can have both physical and emotional harm on their kids.

GOODWYN: The judge's injunction will apply nationally. The Department of Justice indicated it is disappointed in the ruling, and it's studying its options. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.