AUSTIN — On Oct. 19, U.S. District Judge for the Norther District of Texas Reed O’Connor reaffirmed the temporary injunction filed in August regarding the White House directive issued last May saying that transgender individuals could use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, and that schools not complying with the directive risk losing federal funds.
Judge O’Connor’s latest injunction stated that schools should have been able to weigh in before the directive was issued.
The controversy began in March 2016, when a law was passed in North Carolina stating that people must use the public bathroom corresponding with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The Justice Department sued, arguing that the law was discriminatory. Guidelines were issued by the Department of Education saying that under Title IX, federal nondiscrimination standards are violated when transgendered individuals cannot use the bathroom of their choice. The state argued that privacy and safety were the chief concerns.
In July, Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, and a coalition of 13 other states, filed suit in Federal Court in the Northern District of Texas in an action that challenges the Obama Administration’s federal directive requiring schools to allow students to use whatever bathrooms they prefer. Other plaintiffs in the action are Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia, and the Republican governors of Maine, Mississippi and Kentucky. Paxton stated “The president cannot rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people and then threaten to take away funding from schools to force them to fall in line.” At stake are millions of dollars in federal funding for schools.
The official plaintiff in the suit is the Harrold Independent School District, a tiny one located over a hundred miles from Ft. Worth.
Judge O’Connor’s order has now paved the way for Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina to justify ignoring the Federal guidelines regarding transgender bathroom use.
The case will likely be appealed to the 5th Circuit. If Judge O’Connor’s order is upheld there will likely be a Supreme Court ruling where there’s almost certain to be a 4-4 deadlock, if a new justice has not been appointed.
Speaking on behalf of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, President Fran Watson says that the LGBT community views this lawsuit as “Once again another attempt to try to regress all the progress that’s been made since marriage equality became the law of the land. Our next fight is non-discrimination and public accommodation. The world is watching. The trans community is being vilified.”
As a result of this lawsuit, she continued, “There is more advocacy going on. Here in our community parents of trans kids are continuously going before the school boards to make sure there are policies in place so their children are treated fairly.
The fight is simply for access, Watson said. “We’re just pushing for equal treatment across the board, so all transgender people will have access to the restroom of their choice.”