Hours before the start of the new school year, a federal judge issued a national injunction against the Obama administration directive requiring public schools to grant transgender students access to facilities consistent with their gender identity.
"Late Sunday order to make sure Trans kids start off the school year with shame & trauma," Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote on Twitter, responding to the news.
The Houston-based O'Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ruled that the administration failed to follow proper legal procedure issuing the directive.
"This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students' rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school," O'Connor wrote. "The resolution of this difficult policy issue 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."
The ruling stipulates that the injunction pertains only to those states "whose laws direct separation." In addition to Texas, the other plaintiffs in Texas v. United States include: Harrold Independent School District in Texas; the Arizona Department of Education; the Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona; Wisconsin; Maine Governor Paul LePage; Kentucky; Mississippi; Oklahoma; Louisiana; Alabama; Georgia; Tennessee; West Virginia; and Utah.
Already, questions have been raised over the legality of O'Connor's ruling, and the White House is expected to immediately appeal the decision.
"A ruling by a single judge in one circuit 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," read a joint statement, issued by Lambda Legal, ACLU and ACLU of Texas, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Transgender Law Center, and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
"This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students," the statement continues:
So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly.
The scope of this injunction has no effect on the ability of other courts or lawyers representing transgender people to continue to rely on the federal government's interpretations of Title IX or on prior decisions that have reached similar conclusions about the scope of federal sex discrimination laws.
The court's misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people—transgender elementary and high school students—for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.
Further, the groups noted that the rights of transgender students are protected by federal law. "Regardless of what happens with this particular guidance," the groups vowed to "continue to file lawsuits representing transgender students and litigate them to the fullest extent of the law."