AUSTIN, Texas (TheBlaze/AP) — A federal judge in Texas has blocked the Obama administration's directive to public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms coinciding with their chosen gender identity rather than their biological sex.
On Monday — the first day of class for most public schools in Texas — hundreds of school districts awoke to news of the order by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor.
On Sunday, O'Connor ruled that the federal education law, Title IX, "is not ambiguous" about sex being defined as "the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth." O'Connor concurred with Texas Republican state leaders who argued that schools should have been allowed to weigh in on the directive.
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
Texas led 12 other states in challenging the Obama administration’s directive as unconstitutional.
In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said, “We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama Administration’s latest illegal federal overreach,” adding:
This President is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform. That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect States and School Districts, who are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.
Paxton had argued that blocking enforcement of the directive prior to the start of the school year was necessary because districts risked losing federal education dollars if they didn't comply. The Obama administration had told the court that recipients of federal education dollars "are clearly on notice" and that they must follow their order. Texas alone receives approximately $10 billion in federal education funds.
The Department of Education and Department of Justice did not immediately react to the injunction.
Paul Castillo, a Dallas attorney for the gay rights group Lambda Legal that had urged the court to let the directive stand, said the ruling was a continuation of attacks on transgender people.
"I think today is going to be a hard day for transgender students," Castillo said. "The decision is certainly emotional and certainly an attack on transgender students' dignity."
The federal government issued a directive in May that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity. The order followed the Justice Department’s lawsuit over a North Carolina state law requiring people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the biological sex printed on their birth certificate. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch characterized the law as akin to the policies of racial segregation. Republicans have argued that such laws are commonsense privacy safeguards.
The Texas-led lawsuit was filed in May alongside Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, and the Republican governors of Maine, Mississippi and Kentucky. Two small school districts in Arizona and Texas — which have fewer than 600 students combined and no transgender persons on their campuses — also joined the effort to prevent the directive from being enforced.
Follow the author of this story on Twitter and Facebook: