Federal Judge Blocks Obama's Transgender Guidelines

Ft. Worth judge says "status quo" in place for now

Attorney General Ken Paxton
Attorney General Ken Paxton (Photo by John Anderson)

Attorney General Ken Paxton and his anti-LGBTQ cohort have succeeded in blocking a federal transgender-inclusive directive, albeit temporarily.

In a ruling issued late Sunday, a Ft. Worth federal judge halted the Obama administration’s guidelines that allow school children to use the restroom facilities that align with their gender identity. The preliminary injunction applies nationwide.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy while using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” wrote U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in his 38-page order. “The resolution of this difficult policy decision is not, however, the subject of this order. Instead, the Constitution assigns these policy choices to the appropriate elected and appointed officials, who must follow the proper legal procedure.”

All parties must “maintain the status quo” and the preliminary injunction will remain in effect, “until the Court rules on the merits of this claim, or until further direction from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” wrote O'Connor. A George W. Bush appointee, Judge O'Connor has a history of siding against LGBTQ rights.

Texas, leading a 13-state coalition that includes Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee, filed suit against the feds in May, after the Obama administration issued its guidelines to promote a supportive and fostering environment for transgender youth earlier that month. The guidelines came in the wake of the Justice Department’s suit in North Carolina over a law that forced people to use restrooms that correspond with the sex assigned on their birth certificates. Under Title IX, academic institutions can’t get federal dollars if they discriminate on the basis of gender but Texas officials have said they’d forgo billions in federal aid as long as they don’t have to comply with the directive.

The state’s suit, which went to trial on Friday, Aug. 12, argues that the feds have jeopardized student privacy and promoted a rule the says “sexes must be mixed” in “intimate” areas like locker rooms and restrooms. The two-hour hearing was led by Austin Nimocks, an anti-LGBTQ legal crusader who has made a career litigating against gay rights.

Federal attorneys argued Texas has no legal standing and have yet to provide any evidence of the "irreparable harm" they claim to face if the guidelines take effect. LGBTQ advocates and parents of transgender children say the suit is another attempt by conservative state officials to discriminate against an already vulnerable population.

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