The controversy over so-called transgender bathroom bills continues to escalate following President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to overturn an Obama administration directive that allowed students to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Conservatives who saw the Obama directive as a glaring example of federal government overreach were delighted with Wednesday’s announcement.
“No longer will federal officials distort federal law that is meant to equalize educational opportunities for women, and no longer will they force local officials to intermingle boys and girls within private areas like locker rooms, showers, hotel rooms on school trips and restrooms,” Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, told the Associated Press.
But others, including medical professionals, saw the Trump administration announcement as a potential threat to transgender students.
Dr. Fernando Stein, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Thursday that his group “opposes guidance issued last night by the Departments of Justice and Education that eliminates protections for transgender youth in public schools, no longer allowing them to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.”
“Transgender children are already at increased risk for violence, bullying, harassment and suicide,” Stein said in a prepared statement.
“They may be more prone to depression and engaging in self-harm. These children need acceptance and affirmation, not stigmatization. As a result of last night’s action by the Departments of Justice and Education, the simple act of using the restroom may subject transgender students to further harm,” he added.
Stein said policies excluding transgender children “from facilities consistent with their gender identity” have detrimental effects on their “physical and mental health, safety and well-being. No child deserves to feel this way, especially within the walls of their own school.”
According to Stein, “Transgender children should be supported, nurtured and cared for, whether in their homes, in their schools or through policies enacted at the state and federal levels.”
North Carolina became an early flashpoint in the bathroom bill controversy when then-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a law last March that prohibited people from using public bathrooms that didn’t correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificates.
There was significant backlash to the law as businesses canceled plans to expand in the state and the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
University of Richmond law professor Jack Preis had this take on Wednesday’s developments: “Whether you love it or hate it, Trump’s executive order does not change the law — and that’s because there never was any law to change.”
Preis said the Obama administration issued an order “expressing its support for transgender students” last May, but the order was non-binding. “By rescinding that order, Trump is doing nothing more than nullifying a non-binding order. This is hardly a cause for celebration or anguish,” the law professor added.
Preis said that, while orders like this aren’t law, “they do convey the President’s policy preferences — preferences that one day may shape an actual law.”
“The Supreme Court is currently considering a case on transgender rights that may be impacted by President Trump’s policy preferences, and Congress may take up the cause as well. Or Trump could begin the more formal process of making his opinions binding on local schools,” Preis said.
“But again, none of that has happened yet. As a legal matter, today’s order is little more than a paragraph in a very short prologue of a very long book,” Preis noted.
To learn more about transgender people, visit the Human Rights Campaign.