Federal judge temporarily blocks Obama administration policy on transgender students

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Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

Photo by William Brangham/PBS NewsHour

A federal judge in Texas is temporarily blocking the Obama administration’s guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor signed the injunction Sunday after Texas and 12 other states challenged the order, calling it unconstitutional.

The ruling means public schools will not be required to comply with the Obama administration’s guidelines as the new school year begins.

The injunction will remain in place until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the case.

The White House used Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, as justification for its directive. But O’Connor ruled that the federal education law “is not ambiguous” about the definition of sex as “the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the lawsuit, said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling against what he called the Obama administration’s “latest illegal federal overreach.”

“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,” Paxton wrote in a statement.

Transgender rights groups quickly criticized the judge’s decision.

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit court cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination,” according to a statement by five organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Justice Department said it is disappointed with the decision and is reviewing its options.

The decision comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that required a Virginia school to provide bathroom accommodations to a transgender student.

The ruling signals the Supreme Court could take up a case addressing transgender rights in its next term.

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