The Biden administration must pause enforcement of federal guidelines seeking to protect transgender students and workers in 20 states, a federal judge ruled Friday, siding with Republican-led states competing for enforce anti-trans policies on their books.

The order issued Friday allows the 20 states to continue to enforce controversial laws without the risk of government retaliation, including the loss of federal funding for schools. It received praise from Tennessee, which leads the states in a lawsuit, and condemnation of LGBTQ advocates who criticized the judge for “legislation from the bench.

Tennessee and 19 other GOP-led states filed a lawsuit last August arguing that the guidelines issued earlier that year by the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission constituted an unlawful overstepping of executive power.

According to the agencies’ guidelines, transgender students and workers fall under Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded schools, and Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, and national origin. . The directive is designed to protect transgender people from a range of anti-trans policies, including bans on school sports teams, bathrooms and locker rooms in line with their gender identity, as well as measures that allow employers to intentionally refuse to use an employee’s favorite pronouns.

“As shown above, the damages alleged by plaintiff states are already occurring – their sovereign power to enforce their own legal code is hampered by the defendants’ issuance of directives and as a result they are under significant pressure to enforce their state laws.” change,” Judge Charles ruled. E. Atchley Jr., a Trump appointee, wrote in his preliminary injunction.

“As it stands, plaintiffs must choose between the threat of legal repercussions — enforcement action, civil penalties and withholding federal funding — or changing their state laws to ensure compliance with the guidelines and avoid such adverse action,” it said. the order. .

CNN has reached out to the Department of Education and the EEOC for comment on the order.

The Biden administration based its advice on the 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that the federal civil rights law protects transgender, gay and lesbian workers. The government has used the ruling to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ people in the US in many areas of life. The Department of Education guidelines issued last year reversed the Trump administration’s stance that gay and transgender students were not protected by the law.

But Atchley said in his order that the Department of Education is “ignoring Bostock’s limited reach”.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III applauded the order in a statement Sunday, saying Atchley “rightly acknowledged that the federal government put Tennessee and other states in an impossible situation: choose between the threat of legal repercussions, including withholding federal funding, or changing our state laws to comply.”

“We are grateful that the court ended it, maintained the status quo as the lawsuit progressed, and reminded the federal government that it cannot order its agencies to rewrite the law,” he added.

The order sparked outrage from LGBTQ advocates, with one of the country’s largest LGBTQ rights groups calling it “another example of far-right judges legislating from the bench.”

“Nothing in this decision can stop schools from treating students in accordance with their gender identity. And nothing in this decision eliminates the obligations of Title IX schools or the ability of students or parents to file lawsuits in federal court,” Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Saturday. “HRC will continue to fight these anti-transgender statements with every tool in our toolbox.”

The government has been working to strengthen some of the protections challenged in the lawsuit. President Joe Biden announced last month that the Department of Education issued new rules that would clarify that Title IX protections against discrimination apply to sexual orientation and gender identity and that it would be against anyone to participate in a school program. or activity consistent with their gender identity the law.

The proposed changes will undergo a public comment period before being finalized.

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