US President Donald Trump's administration revoked landmark guidance to the country's schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice. The move reversed a signature initiative of former President Barack Obama.
In a joint letter on Wednesday, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration's position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, the New York Times reported.
The two-page "Dear colleague" letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation's public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead it says that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.
The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.
The departments wrote that the Trump administration wants to "further and more completely consider the legal issues involved," and said that there must be "due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy," the daily said.
Although it offered no clarity or direction to schools that have transgender students, the letter added that "schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender -- students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that his department "has a duty to enforce the law" and criticised the Obama administration's guidance as lacking sufficient legal basis.
Sessions wrote that the Department of Justice remains committed to the "proper interpretation" of the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX but said deference should be given to lawmakers and localities.
The new letter scrambles the calculus for a number of lawsuits working their way through the courts, particularly the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia teenager who sued his school board for barring him from the boys' restroom.
The case is scheduled for oral arguments before the US Supreme Court next month.
Grimm said he was disheartened that the Trump administration is withdrawing Obama's guidance which was "incredibly empowering", the daily added.
The guidance led to outrage all across the country.
Sarah Warbelow, legal director of Human Rights Campaign, said rescinding the guidance will lead to confusion among schools that look to the federal government for best practices, because the change does not affect existing federal law, only the Department of Education's interpretation of it.
Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Centre for Transgender Equality, told the media that the decision was "simply and dangerously wrong and incorrect".
"Laws like Title IX are not state-by-state options, they are the responsibility of the federal government," she said.
Celebrities slam the move
Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Brie Larson and Lance Bass have spoken out about their opposition to the US President Donald Trump administration’s decision.
Just seeing the news about removing laws protecting trans people. This isn’t about politics. It’s about human rights, and it’s not okay.— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) February 23, 2017
Trans kids drop out of school & commit suicide b/c of bullying. Now we can add the Secretary of Education and President 2 list of bullies.— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) February 23, 2017
TV personality and transwoman Caitlyn Jenner, meanwhile, shared a video of her slamming Trump.
Other transgender celebrities also expressed their anger and displeasure at the Trump administration order. Jen Richards, the creator of Her Story Show and actor Larverne Cox actively opposed the move on social media.
I've been so emotional tonight. It must be that time of the month. You know, when I have to defend my basic humanity and right to exist.— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) February 24, 2017
Think back to that kid in high school who was a little different, & suffered for it. Trump admin basically just said, "Yeah, fuck that kid."— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) February 23, 2017
I was a trans student. I know how vital it is to feel safe, welcomed & affirmed. Equal access enabled me to attend, stay & thrive in school.— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 23, 2017
To young trans folk: Remember this is your school too. You deserve equal access, affirmation & education. You belong. Nothing is wrong w you— Janet Mock (@janetmock) February 23, 2017
Janet Mock, a TV host and author, wrote a note titled “For Trans Students Everywhere” in light of the Trump administration rollback.
Singer Beyonce also took to Facebook on Thursday to tell her fans how they can help stop such an appalling change from happening.