WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court avoided a ruling on transgender rights by sending a closely watched case involving bathroom access at a Virginia high school back to a lower court on Monday after President Donald Trump rolled back protections for transgender students.

Lawyers for a transgender student named Gavin Grimm, who was born female and identifies as male, had asked the justices to decide the case despite of the Trump administration's Feb. 22 action. The court previously had set arguments in the case for March 28.

The brief court order said that the case was sent back to the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which last year ruled in favor of Grimm, "for further consideration in light of the guidance document" issued by the Trump administration.

Grimm sued the Gloucester County School Board to win the right to use the public school's boys' bathroom, saying the school's refusal violated federal anti-discrimination law and the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The 4th Circuit in April 2016 sided with Grimm based on the Obama administration's interpretation of the anti-discrimination law. It now gets a second chance to rule on the dispute, with its earlier decision wiped off the books.

The Trump administration rescinded landmark protections for transgender students ordered by former President Barack Obama last year that had permitted them to use bathrooms that matched their gender identity.

Obama's guidance said that transgender students were protected under a federal law barring sex discrimination in education. The Trump administration's move left the decision to the states.

The law involved in the case is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which applies to federally funded schools. The question of whether it covers transgender students remains unresolved and is likely to reach the high court at some time.

The case, which the justices in November had agreed to hear, would have been the Supreme Court's first case on discrimination against transgender people. It was among the most important cases the justices were due to hear during their current term, which ends in June.

The issue of allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than their birth gender has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

The matter heated up after North Carolina passed a Republican-backed law last year that required people to use bathrooms that corresponded to their gender at birth in government buildings and public schools. The North Carolina law also blocked local measures protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

The Obama administration in May 2016 issued its nationwide guidance telling public schools that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice, and indicated that states could lose education funding if they did not comply.

That action infuriated many conservatives and prompted a Republican-led legal effort to fight it. A total of 23 states sued to block the guidance. That lawsuit was dropped after Trump rescinded the guidance.

In the Virginia case, the Supreme Court in July 2016 voted 5-3 to temporarily block the appeals court decision from going into effect, a move that prevented Grimm from using the boys' bathroom when the new school year began in September while the case remained under appeal by the school district.

by Danielle Bergan

Okay, this might be a bit long but here goes. I am not surprised at 45 and his Republican administration's removal of basic human rights protections for our transgender youth. It is the reflection of the conservative, right wing that is now in power in Washington. Even more disturbing is Secretary of Education and an Attorney General who act in a gutless manner for civil rights matters such as these. However, everything we have gained over these past 10 years is not lost.

Look at how far we have come as a nation in recognizing LGBT rights. Gay marriage is now a fact of life. The Supreme Court, the highest legal authority in our land, ruled this is the law. And in the same way our Supreme Court did this, ruled on integration of our schools and a woman's right to chose in Roe vs. Wade, I hope and pray they will do the same next month when Gavin Grimm's case comes before them.

 Trans-kids already are faced with bullying in many school districts on a daily basis. It’s also a fact that 41% of those of us who are transgender will attempt suicide in our lifetimes. This is generally due to non-acceptance by society. Remarkably, trans-kids that grow up as themselves, accepted and loved by their families and are allowed to participate in schools as the people they are, have no higher suicide rates than any other child in our country. It’s hard enough being a kid at all so why make it harder for trans-kids?

The craziest thing to me is all this hoopla over what bathroom a trans-student should use. It is driven by fear, prejudice and ignorance, nothing more. In case you did not know, being transgender simply means your mind and body do not match. For me, I lived life in a male body for years always knowing inside my head that I was a female. When I or a trans-kid wants to use the bathroom associated with our gender all we want to do is be like all other men and women, go to the bathroom.

In most school districts when left up to the kids themselves, the vast majority have no problem with transgender classmates. Under proper direction and understanding school districts can and do in many cases give trans-kids the same rights as any other student.

I sincerely believe that education, love and understanding are the keys to moving into a future where problems such as this will not exist. In the same vein, all of us belong to the human race. We all deserve basic human rights regardless of race, creed, color, natural origin, sex, gender identity, expression, or physical disability.

Transgender children or adults are the same as everyone. They have feelings, desires, wants and the right to live in this country like anyone else. The trumped up fears of sexual assaults are propaganda intended to scare the average person who has no idea of who a transgender person is. This simply is a myth propagated by the conservative religious right of the Republican Party. It is nothing more than hate directed in the face of those who can’t defend themselves.

Yet, there are those of us who are trans-adults who have fought long and hard for years to be who we are. We are joined by many in the LGBTQ community, allies, parents of trans-children and the average person who distains prejudice and bigotry in any form and who now stand in support of transgender rights for children. We will fight for as long as it takes to ensure that these rights will be won and guaranteed by our nation itself.

So to those in power in Washington, especially 45, please know, we are not going away. We will not lie down and we will never give up until all transgender children and transgender adults are ensured the same guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that all American’s have the right of.

We will survive and we will thrive!

 

By Rebecca Mead February 23, 2017

When historians write their accounts of the Trump era—assuming the practice of historical scholarship survives it—a small but significant portion of those chronicles will be concerned with the bewildering phenomenon of grown Republican men policing the bathroom habits of vulnerable teen-agers. With the announcement today that Trump has rescinded a civil-rights rule put in place under President Obama, providing transgender students in public schools with the right to use the bathroom of their choice, the President and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, have scored a political victory. Voters who believe that a hazard is presented by, for example, a transgender eighth grader using the bathroom corresponding to her gender identity will be satisfied by the new policy, which states that local districts will now be at liberty to make their own policies regarding who gets to go to the bathroom where. Schools will, presumably, be able to insist that transgender students use the bathroom that is opposite to their gender identity, or—as is often proposed as a reasonable, middle-ground solution—a separate bathroom altogether, such as one intended for teachers.

Reports emerged yesterday suggesting that Betsy DeVos, Trump’s recently appointed and highly controversial Education Secretary, had misgivings about rescinding or revising the policy as it stood. A story in the Times reported that DeVos had expressed concern that rolling back the recently acquired rights of transgender students would open such students up to potential harm, and noted that she had been “quietly supportive of gay rights” for some time. According to the report, DeVos expressed her reservations to Sessions, who could not be persuaded, and sought out Trump’s support for his own position. The President reportedly told DeVos that she could get onboard or she could resign. DeVos chose to keep her job, and signed off on the new rules.

At the same time, the Times reported, she insisted that the letter rescinding the policy should incorporate wording that all students have the right “to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment,” and that the department’s Office of Civil Rights would remain committed to investigating claims of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. This account was greeted in some quarters with something approaching approbation: “Betsy DeVos tried to do something good, but of course Trump overruled her” was one take, in The New Republic.

But trying to do something good—if that is, indeed, what DeVos tried to do—deserves no praise when the end result is to be complicit in something bad. The Times story noted that DeVos had expressed concerns about high rates of suicide among transgender students. She is right to be worried: the suicide rate in the transgender population is significantly higher than that in the population at large; according to an oft-cited study published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, forty per cent of transgender adults have attempted suicide.

At the same time, suicidal leanings are by no means an inevitable consequence of being transgender. A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics shows that transgender youth who have received the support of their families and communities through their transitions suffer no greater rates of depression than does the general population. In other words, if trans kids and teens are not made to feel isolated—if they are not singled out as different—they have every chance of doing just fine, or at least as well as any other teen-age kid.

One good way to make sure trans kids aren’t isolated or singled out is to insure that they have the freedom to use whichever bathroom they feel comfortable using. As anyone who has ever been a kid or a teen will remember, school bathrooms are not merely places in which to answer the call of nature. They are sites of social interaction, where gossip is gossiped and confidences exchanged. To remove a student from that community is to stigmatize him or her, as Nicole Maines, a transgender advocate whose family successfully sued the state of Maine for violation of her civil rights, has eloquently argued. When she was required to use the staff bathroom, Maines wrote in Time magazine, “I was isolated and effectively classified as ‘other.’ My school and community began to acknowledge me as being different and treated me like a second-class citizen.”

Being a teen is hard enough, but being a trans teen should be no harder than usual. The new ruling fails to take account of what common humanity should acknowledge: that within a school bathroom or outside it, a transgender student is much more likely to be the victim of bullying than to be its perpetrator. If DeVos really has concerns about the safety of transgender kids, her capitulation to Sessions and Trump is all the more reprehensible. Insisting that, in rescinding the rule, the Department of Education should profess a commitment to rooting out discrimination and bullying amounts to nothing but empty words, if—as is the case—the intended point of the new rules is to enable the imposition of a particularly cruel, petty, and humiliating structural discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Justice, fewer than 48 hours after Sen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general, began backing out of its support of Title IX protections for transgender students.

In a brief filed Friday, the DOJ withdrew its request for a partial stay on a Texas court ruling that prohibited the federal government from enforcing guidance from the Obama Administration that saw anti-transgender discrimination as covered by Title IX prohibitions on sex-based discrimination in schools. That stay sought to narrow the scope of the ruling to only apply to the 12 states that participated in the lawsuit in some way: Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Arizona, Maine, and Mississippi.

The oral arguments for the partial stay, originally requested in November 2016, were scheduled for Valentine’s Day — February 14. The brief cancelled those oral arguments and signaled that the Trump administration could drop the appeal altogether.

“Defendants-appellants hereby withdraw their pending November 23, 2016 motion for partial stay pending appeal. The parties jointly move to remove from the Court’s calendar the February 14, 2017 oral argument currently scheduled for that motion,” the brief said. “The parties are currently considering how best to proceed in this appeal.”

While Sessions’ name does not appear on the brief, the reversal comes fewer than 48 hours after his confirmation. Some see this change of course as a direct reflection of Sessions’ political agenda. The newly minted attorney general has a record of opposing LGBTQ rights, earning him a zero from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He also opposed hate crimes legislation while in the Senate, because he doesn’t think LGBTQ people “face that kind of discrimination.”

“After being on the job for less than 48 hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled his intent to undermine the equal dignity of transgender students,” HRC President Chad Griffin told the Washington Blade. “Transgender students are entitled to the full protection of the United States Constitution and our federal nondiscrimination laws. It is heartbreaking and wrong that the agency tasked with enforcing civil rights laws would instead work to subvert them for political interests. President Trump must immediately reverse course and direct the DOJ to uphold guidance protecting transgender students.”

A Trump reversal doesn’t seem likely, however, since removing these protections was among the president’s campaign promises.

Still, while the order blocks the federal government from enforcing Obama’s directive that schools permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender, the Washington Blade notes that it doesn’t necessarily prevent transgender plaintiffs from successfully claiming discrimination under Title IX on their own.

A New Jersey boy has become the first openly transgender member of the Boy Scouts one week after the Boy Scouts of America changed its policy to allow transgender children to join the organization.

"I am accepted," Joe Maldonado said Tuesday night as he put on a Cub Scout uniform.

The Record reported (http://bit.ly/2lqlgPh ) the 9-year-old joined Pack 20 in Maplewood following the organization's decision to allow transgender scouts. Maldonado was banned from a Cub Scout group in Secaucus.

"This is fun; I'm so proud," he said during the meeting.

Scout leader Kyle Hackler taught Maldonado the Cub Scout salute and oath.

"This means you're the same as Scouts all over the world," Hackler told Maldonado.

The scout's mother, Kristie, said she was "proud of the fight" she had put up after the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts last year told her Joe would not be allowed to continue to be a member of Pack 87 in Secaucus.

The Boy Scouts changed their policy of referring to the gender on birth certificates to determine eligibility last week after Maldonado's story gained national attention. Previously, the Boy Scouts overturned bans against gay scouts and scouting leaders.

The organization released a statement welcoming the Maldonado family. "Moving forward, the BSA will continue to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible," the statement said.

Maldonado told the newspaper she had decided to bring her son to Maplewood because she did not want to go back to Secaucus, where she said scouting officials told her some parents had complained last year.

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