The Obama administration issued a landmark directive Friday that will force the nation’s public schools and colleges to allow transgender students to use whichever restroom and locker room they wish – a move that critics say is an unprecedented infringement upon privacy and local control.
The move impacts all schools that receive federal funding — including kindergarten grades — and threatens them with loss of funds if they fail to act accordingly.
The letter does not have the force of law, but because of its ties to public funding, most schools likely will fall in line.
The letter from officials within the Departments of Justice and Education will thrust an issue that had been mostly confined to a few cities and states into all 50 states, and potentially could become an election issue.
The departments say that Title IX, which was passed in 1972 and prohibits sexual discrimination, also allows boys and girls to use whichever restroom they wish.
“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 reads.
Additionally, a school’s obligation “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns,” the letter states. “As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”
But critics in more conservative parts of the country said the Obama administration is wrong.
“I announced today that Texas is fighting this,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, wrote on Twitter. “Obama can’t rewrite the Civil Rights Act. He’s not a King.”
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, tweeted, “Is there any issue the Obama Administration believes can be left to state and local government?”
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